Southern Colorado food banks have seen increases in service use over the past year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Less access to food at schools because of remote learning and rising unemployment has increased food insecurity across the state.
Care and Share food bank based in Colorado Springs has more than 280 partners across the Southern Colorado region providing food to people in need. Spokesperson Joanna Wise said the organization has distributed 50 percent more food during the pandemic than previous years and doesn't see that changing anytime soon.
"We know that since we're still in the midst of the pandemic, we really are still responding to it," said Wise. "We will be doing this for months to come."
Partner agencies like Las Animas Helping Hands have seen the same increases. The organization provides weekly food support, as well as rent, utility and prescription assistance.
Executive Director Sharon Barber said they've seen more than 900 families over the past six months, almost double what they saw during the same time last year.
Keeping up with demand hasn't always been easy, Barber said, especially at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We had spent over $1,000 on food in one week with two distributions, and I was wondering what in the world is happening, and what are we gonna do about it?" said Barber.
Barber said community food donations and a partnership with Care and Share has helped keep them going.
Both organizations are taking lessons they've learned serving people in a pandemic into the new year. Barber said they're increasing their utility assistance program, while Care and Share is expanding community outreach.
Wise said one way Care and Share is responding to increased need is by adding mobile food pantries to locations without access to grocery stores or other food banks. The organization also plans to build new food pantries in Fountain and the eastside of Pueblo in 2021, in addition to a new distribution center in Alamosa to serve people in the San Luis Valley.
Southern Colorado food banks are still looking for donations. Here's how you can help.
Most in need of: Baking items like milk, flour, sugar, oil, salt and pepper; Pantry items like soup, peanut butter, jelly, granola bars, macaroni & cheese, crackers, bread, cornmeal, canned chicken or tuna, spaghetti sauce, spaghetti, oatmeal and Cream of Wheat; Sanitary items like toilet paper, toothpaste, tooth brushes, soap, diapers, shampoo and conditioner.
This list will be updated.