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Feeding Weld County

Weld Food Bank’s Partnership With Local Farmers and National Food Banks To Address Food Insecurity

Article by Kelly Zeillmann

Photography by Santora Photo Co.

Originally published in Greeley Lifestyle

“You can’t tell if a person is hungry by looking at them,” Stephanie Gausch, chief development officer for the Weld Food Bank says. Yet, 1 in 4 Weld County citizens utilized food assistance from the Weld Food Bank (WFB) in the past fiscal year. 12.5 million pounds of food was distributed in that same period, with 60% being perishable items like produce, dairy and meat.

The Weld Food Bank achieves its effort to secure healthy food from a variety of nutrient sources through partnerships with five other food banks across Colorado. These partnerships increase the number of months the WFB can provide produce to its customers, which allows a greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year.

Along with its five local partners, the WFB collaborates with companies across the United States to source food via the Feeding America Network. The Network comprises 200 food bank partners and members, who serve 40 million people each year. Each member agrees to abide by the same food safety regulations, enabling all partners to safely share resources with each other. Stephanie says she “is constantly working with other Feeding America Network food banks to source perishable foods for our community.”

In addition to individuals and families, the Weld Food Bank supplies 70 non-profit organizations in Weld County. These non-profits must also agree to follow the same safety standards of the Feeding America Network. Each bank must be able to track food to its end user in case of a food recall. The WFB supplies resources to food pantries in Weld County—which is the key difference between a food bank and a food pantry—and because of this distribution, all parties working under the same food safety standards are essential.

Because of the guidelines, Stephanie can also source from companies like Walmart. In fact, the WFB has a fleet that travels on daily routes to grocery stores, wholesale warehouses like Costco, and convenience stores, like 7/11, to collect their extra food and bring it back to redistribute.

This wide reach helps the WFB meet a growing demand for food assistance. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, about 70% of individuals accessing food came in twice a month, then did not return. They experienced a bump in the road, then recovered. However, the Weld Food Bank sees people needing more sustained help now: individuals access food resources for 3 to 5 months, on average. Inflation rates further affect how often Weld County community members visit the Food Bank.

Stephanie also forms relationships on a personal level, beyond her connections with nationwide networks. The Weld Food Bank has a special agreement with a potato farmer in Monte Vista, a municipality in southwestern Colorado near Alamosa. The Food Bank pays him to harvest potatoes he would otherwise plow under because they don’t meet grocery store standards—though they are still perfectly good to eat. This agreement allows the farmer to make more money and employ agriculture workers for another two weeks to harvest desirable foods.

Part of a larger trend across the U.S. to reduce food waste by utilizing good produce that doesn’t meet a picture-perfect standard but could feed hungry people, the Weld Food Bank’s agreement is one of many ways they service a community beyond Weld County’s borders. These relationships are key—if the Food Bank can help grocery store managers understand the pervasiveness of hunger and their role in alleviating the problem, it can make an even bigger impact across Colorado—and the nation.

"[The Weld Food Bank] is constantly working with other Feeding America Network food banks to source perishable foods for our community." -Stephanie Gausch

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