Each year, Care and Share Food Bank has experienced an increase of food distribution while its role of providing food throughout southern Colorado remains constant.
Initially, the organization was the direct source for individuals in need of food; several years ago it transitioned to what is called a food bank, said Shannon Brice, chief alliance officer with Care and Share.
“We’re very unique as an Empty Stocking agency, in that we partner with many of those agencies by distributing food to shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries and schools. Partnering is really what we are all about,” Brice said.
Care and Share serves 31 counties and partners with about 250 organizations to provide food to those in need.
“Those agencies then come to us to get what is manageable for their food pantries. Food distribution is often only a piece of what they do,” she said. “All of these organizations come to us as their grocery store.”
Ten years ago, Care and Share moved into its current facility on the city’s east side. Brice said when she started with Care and Share 12 years ago, about 9 million pounds of food was being distributed. That number is now 24 million pounds.
“The building has been transformational in that it has allowed us to perfect the logistics of the movement of food,” she said.
Care and Share is one of the 200 food bank members of Feeding America, a leading national charity fighting hunger. Among other things, it works with national manufacturers that donate by the truckload. Brice said it is the source for a majority of the food Care and Share distributes. Locally, King Soopers and Walmart are major donors, as are several farmers and ranchers. “We try to purchase food locally whenever we can, as well,” Brice said.
Within the realm of food distribution, there are several programs, including the Children’s Nutrition Initiative, which last year served 5,400 kids. The initiative includes the Meals and Snacks program, school pantries, the Healthy Kids Club and the Backpack Program, which sends food home with schoolchildren on weekends.
As with most nonprofit groups, Care and Share relies on volunteers.
“They are fundamental to how we operate,” Brice said. “Last year we received more than 50,000 hours from our volunteers.”
The Care and Share kitchen is used for the Healthy Kids Club where snacks and meals are prepared for after school and during summer. It is also where some produce rescue takes place, Brice said.
“We’ll have some produce that still has some life in it before going bad,” she said.
Such food is cooked, then frozen so it can be distributed to agencies.
Brice encourages people to visit careandshare.org, which includes resources for individuals in need of food.