A pilot program to help hungry residents living along the Powers and Academy boulevard corridors in Colorado Springs and south to the city of Fountain started a month ago, with a goal of providing free delivery of free groceries to 12,000 households over the next year.

“With groceries, rent and gas prices rising, yet salaries not increasing at the same rate, families are finding themselves in a really tough situation between keeping the lights on, getting to work, paying a medical bill or keeping food in the refrigerator,” said Elizabeth Quevedo, director of community impact for Pikes Peak United Way. “The need for access to food is greater than ever.”

The effort unites two local nonprofits and one publicly traded company.

Pikes Peak United Way is spearheading the initiative, part of the nationwide Ride United program, which started in 2018 and now operates in 455 cities and towns.

The program enlists drivers who work for the online food ordering and delivery service DoorDash to drop off boxes of pantry staples and fresh produce from Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. Drivers can opt out of doing so.

“This partnership helps us eliminate the transportation barrier to get food to one-vehicle families, the homebound and dual-working families who are unable to get to food banks,” Quevedo said.

Under the program, people must live within a 10-mile radius of one of two Care and Share distribution sites to qualify — the food bank’s main warehouse at 2605 Preamble Point, off North Powers Boulevard and East Constitution Avenue, or Sunny Side Market, a Care and Share food pantry in Fountain, at 501 E. Iowa Ave.

Local programs are designed to meet the needs of the specific community, Quevedo said, so each operates differently.

While some programs deliver medications or pet food to homes, the Pikes Peak region effort will focus on food insecurity, said Bobby Gomez, community engagement specialist for Pikes Peak United Way.

The need for food nearly tripled from 2019 to 2021, during the coronavirus pandemic, Quevedo said, and now has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Still, some 200 families continue to show up at twice monthly food distributions Pikes Peak United Way holds, she said. And there are many other food giveaways in the area, she added.

The delivered food is meant to provide families with supplementary assistance, Quevedo said, to add to a pantry or make a meal but not constitute a week’s worth of groceries.

What distinguishes the local program, she said, is that people who want to enroll can call Pikes Peak United Way’s resource call center, 2-1-1, to sign up.

Recipients can have a delivery once a week, Gomez said.

The Colorado Springs United Way office has a one-year agreement with Ride United to test the program to see how the community responds, Quevedo said.

A small portion of administrative costs are being funded, she said.

If the initiative is deemed successful, the goal is to not only continue but also expand to include more residents.

“This unique collaboration allows us to better reach members of our community who need support and help alleviate the stress that many food pantries are currently experiencing at the same time,” Cindy Aubrey, president and CEO of Pikes Peak United Way, said in announcing the new program.

In other communities, Brittany Graunke, a director at DoorDash, said local delivery has been “critical in supporting food banks and food pantries’ provision of food and other essentials while emphasizing convenience and dignity.”

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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