What do food banks and dairy farms have in common? They both care deeply about community and improving access to nutrient-rich food amongst our country’s most vulnerable populations…and they both value that among the best practices to help them do the greatest good are efficiency and productivity.
This year, National Dairy Council awarded grants to food banks across the country to help increase access to dairy. We nominated Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado because of their ability to reach rural areas, and Care and Share was selected to receive a grant as a result. Care and Share asked their food pantries, which are located in 31 counties in southern Colorado, to submit applications for new refrigerators to be purchased with the $10,000 grant. With thorough research to maximize the grant dollars, Care and Share was able to purchase 22 refrigerators.
In October, I had the chance to visit one food pantry that received a refrigerator from the grant. The pantry, located in Colorado Springs, each week serves 50 – 70 people who pick up food for their families, which average three to four people per family. Their clients are only about 25% seniors, the majority are working families that have trouble making ends meet.
"The fridge is great,” said Joe, who runs the pantry. “But it is still hard to meet demand for milk.”
After touring the pantry, we went on to tour the main Care and Share food bank facility, which was built in 2009. The building is LEED Certified and designed for energy efficiency, which results in cost savings. The building uses natural light, water-efficient landscaping and alternative fuel sources. They also compost, recycle or sell un-usable food to a local company that turns it into animal feed meaning the food bank has a total of only five percent waste that ultimately leaves the property.
“By comparison, the city of Colorado Springs has about 87% of waste go to landfills,” said Mandy Strider, resource development director for Care and Share.
Care and Share also has a garden where volunteers grow asparagus, beets, fruit trees, lettuce and more. The garden is watered with recovered rain water, and volunteers can take some of the food they grow home.
Just like dairy farmers, Care and Share wants to minimize their environmental impact and maximize the number of people they can serve. Currently, there are 171,000 food insecure people in the 31 counties Care and Share serves, and they reach about 108,000 of those. They give out about 16 million meals worth of food each year, nearly 40% of that food is produce. The rest is usually dairy, meat or bread products.
Care and Share wants to increase access to nutrient-rich milk at their pantries, so after the tour, there was a discussion about promoting the Great American Milk Drive and how to increase donations through the program so their pantries could get more milk to those who need it.
Since the donation coupons purchased through the Great American Milk Drive can be used at places like Loaf and Jug convenience stores, they are really great options for Care and Share’s clients.
Stay tuned for more information about Care and Share’s efforts to promote The Great American Milk Drive – and be sure you donate at milklife.com/give!