Moving Families Forward Through Food Insecurity
“I never really knew how to cook, or plan or budget. Buying McDonalds’s was cheaper and easier than wrestling with 3 kids at the grocery store.” For families living paycheck to paycheck, budgeting an entire week’s worth of meals is daunting. “Do I pay for utilities this week, medications, or put gas in the car? I can scrape together $10 today to buy 10 dollar items off the Dollar Menu, but I wasn’t able to save up enough for a week’s worth of groceries to go to the store.”
Food insecurity, which can be defined as the lack of access to an adequate amount of affordable and healthy foods, is an issue seen all over the United States. Unfortunately, within our own beautiful state of Colorado, food insecurity is rampant. Nearly 1 in 11 Coloradoans deals with extreme hunger and the lack of resources to acquire a sufficient amount of food. Perhaps even more shocking is that 1 in 7 children face the hardships of food insecurity as well. Every child in our program, faces food insecurity as they are transitioning out of homelessness. Research suggests that an impactful strategy for decreasing food insecurity is to help provide the hungry with access to nutritious food. Through the programs we offer our Partners, Partners in Housing does just that through a continuum that takes them from food insecurity to stability and self-reliance.
Often times our Partners are on a tight food stamp budget, so having to provide daily nutritious meals for their families can be a struggle. In Colorado, to be eligible for food stamps, the income of a single parent with one child has to fall below $1782. Even then, the most they can qualify for in food stamps is $352 to be spent per month on food. This unfortunately does not cover baby formula or food that has already been prepared. Many times, our moms will go without food to ensure that their children at least are taken care of.
There are many resources which our Partners can utilize that help move them out of food insecurity. Most of these resources can be accessed by our Partners at the Colorado House and Resource Center in downtown Colorado Springs. The Colorado House has a large food pantry which holds non-perishable food items. In the month of February, ANB Bank hosted a food drive in each of its 5 local branches. Jenkins Middle School National Junior Honor Society collected items for the month of March and we have also received food donations from individuals as well. If your family, school, group or company would like to adopt our food pantry for an upcoming month, please let us know! With summer right around the corner, children that benefit from the school lunch program will have an additional need.
Having access to a food pantry and canned food items is just the first step to meeting our Partner families’ nutrition needs. A few years ago, Lowes generously donated and built a kitchen for our Partners at the Colorado House, which is accessible 24 hours a day. Here, parents can drop their kiddoes off at the on-site Child Enrichment Center while they meal plan and use items from the pantry. A mom or dad can make an entire week’s worth of food and package it whenever they like.
Along with access to the pantry items and the freedom to make their own meals, the Partners and families are offered freshly cooked, family friendly dinners from Common Cause Catering on Tuesdays, Wednesday, and the first Thursday of every month. The Colorado House boasts a fully functioning, commercial kitchen. We want to grow our food services division and are actively seeking a Volunteer Kitchen Assistant in the evenings to help make that happen! Families are offered self-sufficiency and skills based classes in the evening. They usually come straight from picking their kids up from school after work and rarely have time to stop for food along the way. The families sit down for dinner together, then the kids go play with their friends in the Child Enrichment Center while their parents attend these amazing classes.
Fortunately, our Partners have additional resources to help our Partners to work around their budget. Our Money Mentors help our Partners keep track of their total spending on food including how they utilize their food stamps. The mentors have a goal of helping the Partners stretch their dollars. They discuss with our Partners how the money not spend on food can be put into savings or used to pay off their debt. Along with our Money Mentors, nutrition interns from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs help out as well. They visit with our Partners and converse with them on topics such as eating healthily on a food stamp budget, dealing with food allergies, and the difference between types of produce (fresh, frozen, and canned).
Another one of Partners in Housing’s best resources for fighting food insecurity is the 6 week “Cooking Matters” program offered by Care & Share. Volunteers from Care & Share host classes that provide one hour of education about nutrition and one hour of hands-on cooking prep-work. At the end of each class, the Partners are given the ingredients to make the meals themselves at home or in the Lowes kitchen. These classes have become quite popular and brought an immense amount of joy to our Partners.
Thankfully, Partners in Housing has had the means to implement beneficial and educational programs to aid our Partners in combatting food insecurity. Tackling a large issue such as food insecurity requires small changes within our community, and we are grateful to have the privilege of helping some of Colorado Springs’ families make those small changes by offering emergency and budget-stretching nonperishable goods, fresh family meal service twice per week, offering the Lowe’s kitchen for weekly meal prep, classes on nutrition and how to cook kid-friendly meals on a budget, budget counseling and money mentoring. The continuum of services takes a family in crisis and food insecurity to stability and self-reliance.
We could not, however, offer any of those programs without our community partners! Volunteers run or are involved heavily in every aspect of our Food Service continuum. We are in high need of kitchen assistants to help prep and serve meals on Tuesday and Wednesday Evenings. Please contact Marianne at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more.