Our Community Foundation expands with launch of The Community Market
Renowned chef Kelly Liken to oversee market; organization sets its sights on ending hunger in the Vail Valley
Three years after 27 founding families started Our Community Foundation, the organization’s leadership announced Friday a new and heightened focus to reduce hunger through healthy food access for all living in the Vail Valley.
Our Community Foundation has been renamed to the Eagle Valley Community Foundation. Its cornerstone program, The Community Market, formerly the Eagle River Valley Food Bank, has expanded with unique programming aimed at removing any and all stigmas around food access and security. In conjunction with the Foundation’s leader, Susie Davis, another well-known name is taking the reins to oversee The Community Market.
“We are so fortunate that entrepreneur and chef extraordinaire Kelly Liken has agreed to serve as our Eagle Valley Food Systems Director,” Davis said. “What Kelly brings to The Community Market will be unprecedented in the space of deploying food solutions in our backyard and become a model for other communities.”
Avon residents Mike and Sue Rushmore, who were among the first 27 founding families, added: “We have amazing systems and partnerships in place, and a realistic strategy to reduce hunger in the community we love.”
Ending food insecurity in Eagle County
In Eagle County, according to Feeding America, 8,700 residents struggle to put food on the table. The Community Market is reaching more than 800 people every week. In June, for a second school year, the Community Foundation and The Community Market paid off the lunchroom debt across the Eagle County School District. This year the debt was almost double last year’s tab.
Rushmore said this highlights the opportunities ahead for greater community involvement: “We are currently reaching about 20 percent of families in need; we have a lot of work to do.”
A welcoming place to gather
In providing healthy, low- and no-cost solutions, including fresh produce and prepared foods as well as shelf-stable items, Liken and The Community Market team are also creating a gathering place where people feel comfortable, supported, listened to and welcomed.
Liken said she is motivated by the vision to “bring an often separated community together as one to improve the health and wellness of all local families. I am very excited to bring my experience and passion for healthy foods to thousands of individuals and families.”
The Community Market is located at 760 Lindbergh Drive, #7 in Gypsum and is open between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The team has coordinated an innovative schedule of local pop-up mobile markets that feature a variety of fresh produce, dairy and bread as well as shelf-stable grocery items. Liken said that spending her days at The Community Market and at various neighborhood locations inspires her to build on solutions to community challenges.
“I think the fresh food is a very good idea,” Alejandrina Luevano, a mobile market customer, said. “This is what we need — good food — especially for the children in my care. They say that children are like little trees, you have to feed them well when they are small so that they grow up beautiful and strong.”
The Community Market is also at the weekly Saturday Edwards Corner Farmers Market throughout the summer where community participants in the fight to end hunger are able to purchase a bag of produce and food items, and a bag to go back to The Community Market for distribution.
In the United States, 40 percent of all food waste comes from consumer-facing businesses. In Eagle County, 30 percent of material sent to landfill is food waste. Working with consumer-facing businesses in Eagle County to implement food rescue programs, one goal of The Community Market is to reduce the amount of edible food sent to landfill, by providing it to people who want to be part of the solution.
AmeriCorps VISTA Sustainability Coordinator, Rita Hennigan, describes the process: “We reduce our landfill materials by managing food waste sustainably. First, we feed people, next we feed animals — farmers pick up at The Community Market, and finally, we compost, converting food scraps into nutrient-rich soil support.”
The Community Market over the past year has been recovering more than 25,000 pounds of food each month from local groceries, as well as sourcing produce from local farmers. This assures healthy, wholesome foods to families in need while reducing food waste, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
The Eagle Valley Community Foundation has accomplished much over the past three years having identified its greatest purpose to be a conveyor of collaborative efforts and key stakeholder partnerships across the public and private sectors. In addition to healthy food access via The Community Market, it uniquely focuses on early childhood learning and health and wellness:
Early childhood impact: More than 60 scholarship students are earning early childhood education certifications at Colorado Mountain College, expanding their skills to develop early-learning experiences that set children up for lifelong intellectual and social success.
Health and wellness comes to you: MIRA means “vision” and stands for Mobile Intercultural Resource Alliance. The Eagle Valley Community Foundation, Vail Health and Eagle County Public Health work collaboratively to ensure that the RV would travel throughout local neighborhoods, connecting people to free local health and wellness resources. More than 2,500 people have connected with the program in the first year on the road.
Building a sustainable source of community funding for critical community needs, from hunger, to mental wellness to early childhood education, is to be lauded. Building and maintaining strong and professional relationships across all key community stakeholder groups, including elected officials, business owners, full and part-time residents, and relative nonprofit partners, is vital.
Rushmore credited the successful launch of programs within the Foundation and Community Market to the generous donations made by Elana Amsterdam and Rob Katz, and organizations including Eagle County and Vail Resorts EpicPromise and the many local families and friends who have stepped up to make a lasting impact on our community.
“These are the earliest days of engagement,” said Vail resident Cheryl Jensen, who along with her husband, Bill, is also a founding family. “We look forward to achieving our full potential in serving the Eagle River Valley over the long term with greater community engagement.”
For more information about how you can get involved, visit http://www.eaglevalleyCF.org or contact Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact volunteer coordinator, Kelli Duncan, at email@example.com.
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Eagle County Schools has released a draft document detailing how the school district intends to return in-person and hybrid instruction starting Aug. 18.