Hello Friends of Care and Share,
I want to thank all of you for your unbelievable support of Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado over the last year. It was my honor to join Care and Share in July of 2022 and I am still in awe over the impact we make across our communities.
Today, I want to update you on the progress we’ve made over these last six months. Let’s celebrate our successes, gear up for the challenges we face in 2023, and explore how integral you are to satiating hunger, easing suffering, and bringing joy to our community.
Care and Share Food Bank, a member of Feeding America, serves Southern Colorado with distribution centers in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and soon Alamosa. We support nearly 300 partner agencies in 31 counties. From Monument south to the border of New Mexico and everything between Utah and Kansas, Care and Share has one of the largest geographical service areas in the nation.
The 300 agencies we support then distribute that food to over 200,000 individual neighbors in need across our great state. Care and Share’s direct service initiative enables us to target underserved parts of our service area with mobile food distributions for immediate relief.
Ironically, I joined Care and Share the first month of our fiscal year. Our fiscal year spans July – June, so our halfway mark fell on December 31st. That point in time serves as an important benchmark to gauge our progress and the hurdles ahead.
In 2021-2022, Care and Share sent 20.2 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 16.9 million meals, out the door to help ease the heavy burden of need in our neighbors. We are on track to achieve 21 million pounds of food, or 17.5 million meals, this go-around. This success is directly attributable to the kindness and generosity of donors, businesses, foundations, and volunteers across our region and Southern Colorado.
When you donate to our food bank, you do so with faith that we will put your donations to good use, so I want to share a few stories of where your money goes.
On a recent distribution day, we met a delighted little girl who had just tasted pineapple for the first time. The pure joy on her face is all the answer I need to offer when my former colleagues ask why I came to work for Care and Share. Her cute little voice rang out as she left our Mobile Market, proudly declaring that pineapple was her new favorite fruit.
She had not been able to try pineapple in her life because of its cost. Because of people like you, we can procure fresh pineapple, and other fruits and vegetables, that enable experiences like this.
On another day, I met two young teachers during one of our partner agency distributions in Southern Colorado. Their struggling family of four found themselves in uncharted territory, and their visit to our food bank was a first for them. As a result of inflation and historically high food costs, they faced the wrenching choice between cutting their groceries significantly or missing a utility bill payment.
Honor, pride, and especially identity act as significant barriers to seeking help from a food pantry, and these two had wrestled with coming to us. We are happy they overcame those barriers and allowed us—you, really —to help them. They represent countless fine families I have met over the last six months that have slipped across the threshold of need for the first time.
At one of our Sunny Side Markets, I met a widower in his 80s who relies on our weekly food distribution. He is a kind, ethical man whose code requires he will not take the food he needs until he has logged some volunteer hours with us. He believes in serving others before allowing himself to be served.
His mentality is not unique or rare in any way. Turns out, many of the most generous people I’ve met in my life are the very people we serve. My theory? Unless you’ve experienced need and hardship yourself, it’s hard to grasp how it feels. That is why so many of the neighbors we serve turn around and give to others the moment their circumstances allow it. They have felt it, lived it, understand it, and many times, our donors have overcome it.
These are just three examples of the over 200,000 people your generosity enables us to serve across Southern Colorado. Our neighbors come from all walks of life and all corners of the 31 counties we feed. They are children, young adults, and seniors. Teachers, service men and women, working class families, single, and married. We are proud to serve them with dignity and joy.
The challenge we face in 2023
2023 will be a challenging year for Care and Share and for food banks across the country. The December 2020 COVID-related emergency funding that increased payments for neighbors receiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ends this month.
The reduction equates to an average decrease of $90 per SNAP recipient or $360 for a family of four, starting in March. The reduction in SNAP funding comes at a difficult time as food prices remain high across the state.
As a result, we are bracing for another significant surge in need over the coming months, not unlike what we experienced in the summer of 2022 when inflation was at its peak. We will need your continued support.
There are several ways to help Care and Share meet the inevitable increase in need, and they are all found on our website, www.careandshare.org.
Or, you could follow the lead of a couple I met just before Christmas. They dropped by the food bank and asked for me at the front desk. When I came down, we chatted a bit and they handed me an envelope as they explained that they had been looking around for a place to donate, and they liked what they saw at Care and Share.
After they left, I opened that envelope. It contained the equivalent of 125,000 meals. I was floored by their generosity, and their humble, kind demeanors.
How might you help?
First, we are proud of our buying power. Right now, we can turn $1 donated into 5 meals based on the enormous quantity of food we purchase!
Second, you will find the next 30 days of volunteer opportunities featured on our website. We couldn’t accomplish our mission without the help of the 6000+ volunteers that help us pack countless boxes and pallets of food for our partner agencies.
Finally, we always appreciate the food drives so many of you organize for us from schools, neighborhoods, and families. Sometimes, individual people drop off food to our distribution centers, and we thank them heartily. Bottom Line: We need your support and there is a way to make a difference, small or large, for everyone.
As a retired Army Officer, I have had the privilege of traveling the world and seeing food insecurity and poverty at a heart-breaking level.
My experience has made one thing very clear for me. We cannot allow people to go hungry in our own country. We live in beautiful Southern Colorado, and in the most powerful, wealthy, prosperous nation in human history.
The ability to eat and to know where your next meal is coming from is a human right. At a minimum, it absolutely should be a basic human right in these United States and in our beautiful corner of it. Together, we can meet the increased need and make a difference.
Nate Springer, President and CEO, Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado