Our Community Foundation helping bridge Eagle County’s food insecurity gap | VailDaily.com

Our Community Foundation helping bridge Eagle County’s food insecurity gap

GYPSUM — Two of Colorado's richest counties, Eagle and Pitkin, do not provide enough food to people in need, says Feeding America.

Sometimes, Summit County also falls under that unfortunate umbrella.

Several local nonprofits say it won't stand for that and are trying to bridge that gap. But sometimes the helpers need help.

Our Community Foundation launched its Food Distribution Initiative to help struggling families access more and healthier food. Volunteers working in the foundation's Gypsum warehouse packed and delivered 10,000 food bags a week for the past two weeks, said Mike Rushmore, the foundation founder and board chairman.

"We're not addressing hunger to the capacity we should," said Susie Davis, who's helping run Our Community Foundation. "It doesn't mean people are starving, but they're making tough choices."

Food Bank of the Rockies also works with local organizations and has helped with mobile food pantries — trucks full of food — coming to Eagle County, said Janie Gianotsos, director of marketing and community relations with Food Bank of the Rockies.

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Reaching out with a helping hand

Two days before Christmas, a man showed up at the warehouse with his wife asking for some food. He then asked if he could have some food for his neighbors.

About 45 minutes later, he returned in a black van. People poured out with hugs and thanks.

Davis was speaking with one of their other clients.

"Sometimes if you think about hunger, you think about suffering. I'm not suffering. I'm struggling. We all have struggles," the woman told Davis.

Rushmore and a host of good-hearted folks launched Our Community Foundation in 2014. Along with helping people, they also help other organizations that help people.

When Our Community Foundation started its food initiative this fall, it worked most of the kinks out during a monthlong trial with 22 local families. For example, organizers learned that their clients often consider fresh produce a luxury food. Cooking with olive oil is also considered a luxury.

Healthy eating means produce instead of junk food and olive oil instead of lard, and that's what they're trying to make available, Davis said.

"If we're the healthiest state in the nation, we should be making healthy food available to everyone," Davis said.

Poverty and food insecurity

An estimated 13,000 people live in poverty in the Eagle River Valley, according to data from Our Community Foundation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 17 percent of Americans — more than 50 million people — live in households that are "food insecure." The USDA says that means a family sometimes runs out of money to buy food or runs out of food before their next paycheck.

Feeding America has been around for 35 years and keeps track of things such as food insecurity.

The organization says that in Eagle County, 4,180 people are considered food insecure; it's 2,200 in Pitkin County, Colorado's two highest-percentage counties.

Many of those fall between the cracks, making too much money to qualify for government assistance but not enough to make ends meet. This week, some of those were Vail Resorts employees and other resort workers who, because of the sparse snow, are not working enough to pay their bills.

"It's not rocket science. What do people need when they get in a tight spot? If you can supplement some of the other needs, maybe they can pay their rent on time. It's not world peace, but it's one step toward it," Davis said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

How to help

Our Community Foundation’s food warehouse is located in Gypsum at 760 Lindbergh Drive, Unit No. 7. If you’re on U.S. Highway 6 heading toward Costco, go two miles past Sylvan Lake Road and take a left turn just past the CAT rental on to Earhart Drive and then take a left turn onto Lindbergh Drive. The warehouse is on the left at the circle.

This week, it’s open Tuesday, Jan. 2, 1 to 4 p.m. and Wednesday, Jan. 3, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. To donate or for more information, go to ourcommunityfoundation.org or email susie@ourcommunityfoundation.org.

Feeding America’s Map

For a look at Feeding America’s data about food insecurity in Eagle and Pitkin counties and the rest of the country, go to their interactive map, map.feedingamerica.org