Volume 2 | June 2021
Hunger Matters provides updates about our community efforts
to alleviate hunger in western Colorado
Exciting News!
Mesa County Blueprint to End Hunger Released

After three years of meeting and planning, the Mesa County Hunger Alliance has developed its own comprehensive action plan to address hunger here in Mesa County. Our local efforts have been inspired by the statewide Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger and build on the strengths and assets here, including a strong commitment to inter-agency collaboration and entrepreneurial solutions to address hunger.

The Mesa County Blueprint to End Hunger lays forth a vision, goals and action steps to better address the emergency and short-term food assistance needs of our community. Hunger is an issue in Mesa County, where one in eight adults is considered “food insecure,” not sure where their next meal will come from. Over half of children in School District 51 qualify for free or reduced price lunch, a federal measure of hunger and poverty.

The Mesa County Blueprint to End Hunger was formally released on June 24th at a celebration event at the Community Food Bank. Mesa County is the first county in Colorado to develop its own hunger action plan. Erin Ulric of the Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger Program Office in Denver complimented Mesa County for being a pioneer in the state on this issue. County Commissioner Janet Rowland, City of Grand Junction Mayor Chuck McDaniel and other local leaders spoke about the goals in the Blueprint and various projects underway to improve and strengthen hunger relief efforts. Members of the Mesa County Hunger Alliance direct service organizations and government entities were on hand in matching t-shirts to distribute the plan and answer questions of the media and the public.

Local planning efforts were supported with generous grants from the Colorado Health Foundation. Our Community Foundation provided staff support and facilitated the planning process and prepared the Blueprint document.

To read about the launch event, click here.
get more info and download your copy of the Blueprint @ endhungermesaco.org.
Hunger Heroes
Dan Sharp Recognized as Distinguished CMU Alum

School District 51 Food and Nutrition Services Director, Dan Sharp, has been recognized as Distinguished Alum of the Year by the CMU Alumni Association. The recognition is a tribute to Dan’s many years of leadership and entrepreneurial efforts to address child hunger in our community. These include D51’s successful Lunch Lizard summer mobile meals program (now in its 7th summer of operation), made-from-scratch meals, student-sized salad bars, and new initiatives to provide healthy snacks, including the D51 Snack Stations.

Our Community Foundation President nominated Dan for the award. “Dan is a very special guy – healthy school meals aren’t just a job but a vocation. He’s so aware of the correlation between hunger and health problems and the inability of students to focus and learn in the classroom. He’s always looking for ways to offer more nutritious cafeteria meals and change systems for the better. We loved working with him on the planning and development of the Lunch Lizard food trucks. There are so many other things he’s done to ensure children and youth in our community have access to healthy and locally-sourced fresh foods.”  

Watch the tribute video here.
Strategic Collaboration
Community Food Bank and Kids Aid Backpack Program
Forge New Partnership

Two hunger relief organizations have announced a strategic alliance, sharing staff and other management infrastructure going forward to improve operating efficiencies and coordinate services. Both organizations will retain their warehouse facilities, assets, current staff, and boards. Core programs will be continued without interruption. Maintaining each organization’s identity and brand is an important component of the partnership. Community Food Bank’s Executive Director, Alisha Wenger, will serve as Executive Director for both organizations. The hope is that, by working together, both organizations can benefit from shared fundraising and volunteer management systems, and together do more to meet growing needs.

As summarized in a recent announcement, “Our two organizations have so much in common. We are both independent nonprofit organizations founded by passionate volunteers seeking to fulfill unmet needs in our community, financially strong and well-managed, rooted and respected in Mesa County... we are excited to team up and see what the future holds as we work together to better serve our children and community members in need of food.”
Grantee Spotlight
Ouray County Food Pantry Opens New Pantry
The Ouray County Food Pantry provides food boxes for neighbors in need in Ridgway and Ouray. In the past eight years, the pantry has moved three different times, from one rental location to another. This month, the pantry moves into a permanent home at 602 North Cora Street in Ridgway. Volunteer board members have raised almost $400,000 to purchase and renovate the property, celebrating with a Grand Opening on June 20th.

Our Community Foundation provided some technical assistance in organizing the capital campaign and a $25,000 grant for the project. Notes board chair, Beverly Angrehrn, “This just would not have happened without your help and support. Again, thanks so very much!”

News Briefs
Fed Up With Hunger?
No One Should Go Hungry

In Mesa County, it is estimated that 14% of the population is food insecure. Federal assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and Women, Infants & Children (WIC) support individuals and families by providing funds to purchase groceries, helping people stretch their budgets and afford nutritious foods they need. Yet despite the existence of these income support programs, only 57% of eligible people in Mesa County apply for assistance.

The Mesa County Hunger Alliance is trying to increase enrollment in these helpful programs. Mesa County Public Health and Hilltop Family Resources are organizing a campaign entitled No One Should Go Hungry to spread the word about available programs and provide assistance and support in the enrollment process. Visit here for more information. 
Did you know SNAP benefits not only help individuals purchase food when money is tight, but the program also benefits our local economy? 
Every additional dollar in SNAP benefits generates $1.79 of new spending in the economy, supporting retailers, employees of retailers, and others. For more information click HERE.

CSU Community Alliance

The Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief, referred to more simply as the Community Alliance, is a program housed at CSU’s Western Colorado Research Center in Orchard Mesa. This program has been planting and harvesting produce for hunger relief organizations through its Farm-to-Foodbank program for the past four years. Even with the restrictions of COVID and the devastating spring freeze of 2020, nearly 80,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables were harvested. Over the past four years, harvests have amounted to nearly 350,000 pounds of fresh produce for community members in need. For more about Community Alliance, please see their Annual Report.

Community Alliance has three interns to support programming this season. Taylor is a shared AmeriCorps volunteer and is helping both the Community Alliance’s food production and Community Food Bank’s work in nutrition education. A key project is creating a choice pantry model for food pantry clients to select food items of their choosing. A second AmeriCorps volunteer, Tori, is leading the veggie team and supporting the Farm-to-School program, engaging school age students in experiential camps at the Research Center. Community Alliance is also working with an intern this summer, Rachel, who is working on her Masters of Public Health. She is working with the Mesa County Hunger Alliance and conducting surveys to better understand food needs of pantry clients. 

Congrats Clifton Christian Food Pantry

Clifton Christian Church has run a food pantry for many years, serving as the primary food pantry on the east side of the valley, in Clifton. They recently incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and are working to build a strong board of directors and ramp up fundraising to better meet growing needs. Congratulations and thank you to long-time director, Jackie Feaster, and her dedicated volunteers for all their work and exciting plans for the future.
Hunger is a problem here in western Colorado…
where one in two children qualify for free or reduced price school lunch and one in
eight residents do not know where their next meal may be coming from. Our regional
Community Foundation has been working on expanding hunger relief efforts, including the development of summer mobile meal programs - the Lunch Lizard (Mesa County) and the
Meal Monkey (Garfield County) - and providing funding and technical
assistance to address unmet needs and expand programs.
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