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Conejos County Citizen | Care and Share Food Bank looking for larger SLV base

“We have one belief.  No one should go hungry.”

That’s not just a motto.  That’s the ruling principle and driving force behind Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado:  to bridge the gap between hunger and abundance by providing food, partnering opportunities and education to fight hunger and food insecurity in Southern Colorado.  

While the name may be unfamiliar to some people, the work of Care and Share is not, as the organization supplies food to their “partners” in the region — those food banks, soup kitchen, pantries and others who are directly serving people in the communities where they’re located.

Currently, the organization has large trucks delivering food to the southwestern part of the state, a trip that requires drivers going over two passes.   Finding a distribution center more centrally located for the 15 counties they serve in southwestern Colorado seems like the next, best step to take.

The former Budweiser building west of Alamosa would provide Care and Share Food Bank with exactly what they need in a distribution center.  It’s much closer to the 15 counties that are served in this part of the state than the distribution centers in Pueblo and Colorado Springs.  The building is exactly the right size – 21,000 square feet.  It also has two loading docks with 46% of the space is cold storage.

 “Think of us as the ‘wholesalers’ who get food to the ‘retailers’ like food banks and pantries,” says Lynne Tellford, CEO of Care and Share.  “We’re here to support them because we all have the same vision – a hunger-free Southern Colorado.”

Initially started in 1972 by Sister Dominique Pisciotta to serve those she saw struggling just to have enough food to eat in Colorado Springs, the Care and Share Food Bank has grown and expanded beyond anyone’s most heartfelt dreams in the nearly fifty years since those first days.  

As of 2020, Care and Share Food Bank operates out of two distribution centers, one in Colorado Springs and one in Pueblo, and provides food to partners located throughout the 31 counties that make up Southern Colorado.  Their operational expenses consume roughly 4 percent of the revenue they receive from donations and grants, and more than 7,000 volunteers work with the organization providing invaluable assistance without the labor costs typically attached.  Care and Share also focuses on providing the healthiest food they can, and approximately 84% of their meals are made up of nutritious food with half of the fresh produce coming from Colorado growers.  

In 2018 to 2019, Care and Share delivered 18.3 million pounds of food that were ultimately provided to 170,191 neighborhoods in the form of 15.2 million meals.

Those were the figures before the pandemic.  Since COVID, the numbers are even greater, especially in rural areas that have taken a harder hit.  It’s currently estimated that 22 percent of the population have food insecurity, the equivalent of one out of every five people.  

In July and August alone, Care and Share increased the support they delivered to their partners by 54 percent with the number of partners in the southern part of the state now reaching close to 270 food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens.

Care and Share usually receives an enormous amount of food in the form of donations from manufacturers and wholesalers, but that has diminished since the pandemic, requiring the organization to procure more food themselves even as the need has risen in the communities their partners are serving.   There is also the belief that the current situation may be around “for quite a while,” something that Tellford and her staff are taking into account.  

If the organization is able to purchase the building for a third distribution center, it would also bring roughly 8 jobs to Alamosa.   But Tellford is very clear about what their role would mean in the region.  “We want to be part of the community,” she says, “not to distribute food directly to people, not to compete in any way with the partnering agencies who are already here but to support those partnering agencies who are serving their own neighbors.”

But, as Tellford quickly adds, the funding to purchase a third center will not come from funding reserved to procure food.  Buying the building will come from funds raised independently and specifically for that purpose, which is why the CEO of the organization was in the region herself, introducing people to the organization, to their future plans and, in some cases, educating people on just how vital their services are right now and will probably continue to be in the future.

She plans to host a virtual town hall in the next month or so, during which she’ll be available to answer any questions members of the community might have. The website also has extensive background information as well as current revenue and financial data. Lynne is also available to answer questions between now and then via her email at [email protected]

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