By Kate Lythgoe, Food Programs Manager
On average, over 190 million pounds of safe, edible food are thrown away every day in the United States.
(The Food and Agriculture Organization)
Have you ever wondered where all the food comes from that Tri-Lakes Cares distributes to clients? All the food – breads, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, baked goods, etc. – in the “Help Yourself” area comes from “food rescue” efforts.
What does “food rescue” mean? Food rescue is the practice of gathering edible food that would otherwise go to waste from places such as grocery stores and other retail outlets which is then distributed to local food programs benefiting low-income individuals and families. In most cases, the rescued food is being saved from being thrown into a dumpster and, ultimately, landfills or other waste disposal.
What is Help Yourself? Help Yourself is our food rescue program, with fewer restrictions than our other food programs. The Help Yourself area is set up like a mini-market where clients can select their own breads, baked goods, fruits and veggies allowing them the dignity of self-selection. Dairy products and other similar perishable items are kept in a large refrigerator (purchased with the support of the Tri-Lakes Women’s Club). Clients experience a greater control over their own food selection and are more likely to eat what they take. It has the added benefit of offering more variety of fresh items with nutritional value.
On a weekly basis, twenty-three volunteers spread out across the community to pick-up donated food, set-up the Help Yourself area and assist clients during service hours on Mondays and Thursdays. These volunteers give over 2,500 hours on a yearly basis for this particular program.
Who supports Tri-Lakes Cares through “food rescue”? We could not offer the Help Yourself program without community support. Since December 2015, our community food rescue retailer participation has increased by 63%. Our current food rescue partners include:
- Care and Share of Southern Colorado, 2605 Preamble Pt., Colorado Springs, CO 80915
- King Soopers, 1070 W Baptist Rd., Colorado Springs, CO 80921
- Safeway, 624 W Highway 105, Monument, CO 80132
- Natural Grocers, 1216 W Baptist Rd., Colorado Springs, CO 80921
- Sprouts, 13415 Voyager Pkwy., Colorado Springs, CO 80921
- 7-Eleven, 2650 Old North Gate Rd., Colorado Springs, CO 80921
- Penzeys Spices, 7431 N Academy Blvd., Colorado Springs, CO 80920
- Panera, 1845 Briargate Pkwy., Colorado Springs, CO 80921
- Kneaders, 13482 Bass Pro Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80921
- Which Wich, 7640 N Academy Blvd., Colorado Springs, CO 80920
- Kum & Go, 1206 Interquest Pkwy., Colorado Springs, CO 80921
- Kum & Go, 1410 Cipriani Loop, Monument, CO 80132
Thanks to these generous retailers, 104,882 pounds of food rescue food was distributed to 1,689 clients during our last fiscal year (October 2014 to September 2015). And, Help Yourself continues to be a popular service with our clients.
But, is the food safe to eat? Rescued food is edible, but often not saleable. Bruised fruit such as bananas or apples, day-old breads and baked goods, and products that are just at or just past their “sell by” dates are donated – but still edible. Other times, the food is unblemished, but the store may have made or ordered too much. Rest assured, that Tri-Lakes Cares volunteers and staff carefully review all expiration dates and look over produce to ensure that only the very best is available! We follow best practices in food handling and safety, distributing rescued food the same day we receive it through the Help Yourself program. In addition, retailers are protected by the 1996 Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act which supports food rescue programs from liability lawsuits as well as offering tax benefits for their donations.
How can you help?
Say “Thank you!” to our current Food Rescue partners by shopping in their stores. Be sure to thank the store managers and other workers for their Food Rescue participation and partnership with Tri-Lakes Cares! If they know the community values their efforts, they will continue to donate and assist us.
If there is a food store not on our current list, let the store manager know you’re passionate about reducing food waste and hunger in our community and that what may seem like an “insignificant amount” of food waste to them, can be extremely valuable to the needy in our community. Be clear that what you’re proposing requires almost no additional work from their employees, and over time can help save a substantial amount of food. If they need more reassurance, refer them our Food Programs Manager.
For more information on our Food Rescue efforts, contact Kate Lythgoe, Food Programs Manager at 719.481.4864 x 111 or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Kate Lythgoe, Food Programs Manager
Are there ever times when the food for you and your family just isn’t enough but there isn’t any money to buy more? You may be food insecure.
What does this mean? Being food insecure (or having food insecurity) means you aren’t able to purchase food or have access to food resources, such as living in an area where the nearest grocery store is several miles away and you don’t have reliable transportation to get there. A family is food insecure they live in hunger or have a fear of starvation. They don’t know when their next meal will be or if they have to choose between paying rent or buying groceries.
During a recent screening of American Winter, an HBO produced movie which follows 8 families in Portland, Oregon struggling to make ends meet during the economic down-turn of 2008, a mother said she would skip eating lunch so her children could. This upset the children because they wanted to make sure Mom had enough to eat. The oldest daughter (age 11) made sure Mom would take her lunch with her to work by putting post-it notes all over the house to remind her.
This reflects how particularly devastating food insecurity can be for children. It increases their vulnerability, their sense of instability and the potential for long-term consequences. It also impacts their physical development since inadequate nutrition can permanently alter a child’s brain architecture and stunt their intellectual capacity, affecting the child’s learning, social interaction and productivity. Children who do not receive what they need for strong, healthy brain development during early childhood may never recover their lost potential for cognitive growth and eventual contributions to society.
The White House Council of Economic Advisors has released a report that indicates SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), commonly known as food stamps, has a huge benefit for kids. Nearly half (44%) of all people who participate are children, and families with kids receive 67% of all SNAP benefits. Food insecurity rates among kids falls by 33% after families have been receiving benefits for about six months (No Kid Hungry).
Kids who receive SNAP benefits are healthier, do better in school and are more likely to focus and behave in class. Kids who have access to SNAP benefits are 18% more likely to graduate from high school, and when kids are well nourished, their test scores go up (No Kid Hungry).
While SNAP benefits make a tremendous difference in our children, it just isn’t enough. Toward the end of the month, when SNAP benefits are spent and food budgets are tapped, test scores drop and discipline problems rise. No Kid Hungry research shows as much as an 11% increase in disciplinary action between the first and last week of the month for kids from low income families.
This gap between the first week and the last week of the month is what we aim to bridge at Tri-Lakes Cares.
Tri-Lakes Cares was originally founded in 1984 as a food pantry and our food programs continue to be the cornerstone of service. Tri-Lakes Cares operates three food programs that have, and will continue to, support children living in northern El Paso County.
- Help Yourself
Fresh produce, dairy, eggs and bread are donated by Care and Share, Monument King Soopers, Monument Safeway, Monument Natural Grocers, Hwy 105 Kum & Go, Interquest Kum & Go, Northgate 7-11, Academy Which Wich, Briargate Panera and Northgate Kneaders. Their donations are distributed every Monday and Thursday during our client service hours. Due to the generosity of these donors and the perishable nature of the food items, clients can visit the Help Yourself program twice a week.
- 160 kids were impacted by Help Yourself at least once in February 2016
- Supplemental Grocery Program
Once a month, eligible clients select grocery items from a standard list to provide a week’s worth of groceries, supplementing their pantry shelves at home. Their selected items are packed by volunteers who devote time to weigh, sort and pack food and sundries.
- 90 kids with their families benefited from at least one supplemental grocery order in February 2016
- Snack Pack
Once a week during the school year, our Snack Pack program is available to enrolled low-income students (K through 8th grade) at nine of District 38 schools. These are students who receive no-cost or reduced breakfast and lunch at school and who have been referred by school counselors. The Snack Pack program is intended to help children have food over the weekends.
- 337 kids receive snack packs each week
Here are two Case Manager Testimonies about our clients:
Sam* is married with five children. There were some unexpected surprises recently (medical expense, fewer hours at work, and a raise in school fees) that were really stressing the family out. They came into receive Help Yourself, Supplemental Grocery, and to see the nurse. Because of the food assistance TLC offered, they didn’t have to receive financial assistance. Sam’s family was able to pay the bills with their own income!
Deena* is married with four children. One parent works part-time and their spouse has been in and out of a couple of jobs. The family is receiving Medicaid but they didn’t think they qualified for SNAP. Case Manager Paula encouraged the family to apply. They applied for SNAP and are now receiving benefits. Deena said their family is so grateful for TLC and the services that they have received, especially the food. Paula can report that they are no longer food insecure. Deena’s family is now spreading the word to other families about Tri-Lakes Cares and SNAP!
* Names changed to protect privacy
Tri-Lakes Cares is a community based, volunteer supported resource center whose purpose is to improve people’s lives through emergency, self-sufficiency and relief programs. As the only food pantry and human services organization located in and serving the Tri-Lakes region of Northern El Paso County, we are a critical resource for those in need. How can you help us aid these families?
For more information on our Food Programs, contact Kate Lythgoe, Food Programs Manager, at 719.481.4864 x111 or FoodProgramsManager@tri-lakescares.org
If you need help with food, or have other needs, please contact a Case Manager today!
Mike (Last Names ending A-L): 719-481-4864 x 102
Paula (Last Names ending M-Z): 719-48-14864, x 112
I had the distinct honor and privilege of meeting Rhett and Alyssa recently. Ages 4 and 3 (though Alyssa assured me she was almost 4), Rhett and Alyssa came to TLC to personally deliver the fruits of their month-long labor of love for TLC on behalf of the Ascent Church’s Tiny Town.
Tiny Town (kids ages 2 through pre-k) and Adventure Quest (kindergarten through 4th grade) have committed to walking alongside Tri-Lakes Cares during the holiday season, hoping to raise money for the TLC food pantry and for those people who are less fortunate. They collected a special offering from Sunday, October 25 through Sunday, November 22, and asked the children’s parents to allow them to do some work around the house to earn change.
Rhett and Alyssa shared with us how they earned money to give to TLC. Rhett cleaned his room, helped with the dishwasher and laundry, and cleaned his play room. Alyssa cleaned her room and helped take care of her baby sister, who she tells me had been a little under the weather. Other kids raked leaves, washed windows, helped make dinner and set the table, and much more, all so they could earn money to give to people in need. In total, the Tiny Town-ers raised $44.92 for the TLC Pantry!
In addition to raising money through a special offering, Tiny Town and Adventure Quest collected 278 pounds of food for our holiday bags and decorated the bags themselves – 400 in total! We are so grateful to have these children involved in making a happy holiday celebration for families who are less fortunate.
Thank you Ascent Church for instilling in these kids the value of serving others and thank you Tiny Town and Adventure Quest for your effort to support Tri-Lakes Cares!
On Saturday, November 21, Tri-Lakes Cares’ Staff and Volunteers distributed holiday groceries to 149 local families in need. Each bag included the Thanksgiving basics – stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie mix, etc. – and each family was able to choose between a turkey, ham or chicken to prepare for their holiday celebration. Although it was very cold that day, we all enjoyed ourselves. After all, isn’t Thanksgiving really about giving?!
As often happens when participating in events like this, we at TLC began reflecting on what it is we are thankful for. Our answers were varied: football (the Broncos in particular), family, a reliable vehicle, healthy foods to eat at home, the opportunity to travel, our children, Serrano’s coffee, and more. And after we reflected on what it is we are thankful for, we took a minute to think about how many of the things we are thankful for, our clients go without. Our clients often cannot afford cable to watch the Broncos’ game or a reliable vehicle or healthy foods. Certainly travel is out of the question as well as the occasional splurge for a cup of coffee.
We are so grateful for what we have, but we are also grateful for the opportunity to be a resource for our neighbors in need. Maybe we can’t pay for every cup of Serrano’s coffee or buy each of our clients a new car, but we can alleviate the financial burden experienced during an unforeseen medical emergency, the loss of a job, or even the reality of living in chronic poverty.
So what about you? What are you thankful for this year?