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Anti-Hunger Advocates Call for Expanding Pantry Grant


Tuesday, May 25, 2021   

LAFAYETTE, Colo. -- Anti-hunger advocates are calling on Colorado lawmakers to expand funding for the state's Food Pantry Assistance Grant.

Alexander Hernández-Ball, equity healthy-living and nutrition manager for the Sister Carmen Community Center in Lafayette, said the program has helped Colorado food producers survive COVID-19 disruptions and is critical for purchasing fresh, nutrient-rich food for families.

Without the grant, he explained most families would be able to access only donated food, which tends to be past-ripe produce from grocery stores, or items with longer shelf life but also more likely to be highly processed.

"Having an ability to purchase, we're able to purchase directly from farmers, and we're able to purchase produce, meat and dairy that is fresh, that is delicious, and that really makes a huge difference," Hernández-Ball emphasized.

In 2018, the grant was distributed to 94 food pantries, serving all 64 counties in the state and more than 86,000 clients, but Hernández-Ball contended typical funding levels are not enough to meet the need created by the pandemic's economic fallout.

The money must be spent on food from local farmers at a fair price, which he noted also help support local economies. Advocates urged lawmakers to allocate $10 million for the grant in this year's budget.

Hernández-Ball stressed the grant helped provide a lifeline to Colorado farmers when the pandemic took away their regular customers. The program allowed the pantry to pivot when supply chains were disrupted, and schedule regular, reliable orders from a host of local food producers.

"Specifically we worked with Wisdom Natural Poultry," Hernández-Ball recounted. "At the beginning of the pandemic, [they] lost almost 100% of their business. Most of it was directly to restaurants. And through that we were actually able to buttress them."

He added it also makes economic sense to invest in healthy food today instead of higher medical costs later if people only can access canned or highly processed foods.

Hernández-Ball argued they need ongoing access to fresh, nutritious food, in order for breadwinners to secure and maintain full-time employment, and for kids to do well in school, so they can become successful self-sufficient adults.

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