One in seven people in southern Colorado face food insecurity, according to Care & Share Food Bank, which serves 31 counties across the region. It currently has distribution centers in Colorado Springs and Pueblo and will open a third center in Alamosa in September.
The organization recently hired Nathan Springer, former Garrison Commander at Fort Carson, to fill the role of president and CEO. KRCC's Mike Procell sat down with him to ask him about his new role. Here are highlights from their conversation.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Nathan Springer: I spent 23 and a half years in the military, in the Army. And I changed command as the Garrison Commander from Fort Carson (recently). I'm drawn to service, and why you're in the military is you get to serve with men and women who put the needs of others before their own, who come in from all parts of the United States, and then come together in these small teams and become brothers and sisters. And it's just magical to see that.
It didn't take long to realize that Care & Share is exactly the same thing. Everyone I met at Care & Share, whether it was the frontline supervisor in the distribution center, to the truck drivers… they all have a really good purpose and a really good why. And that's to put the needs of others before their own to make sure their neighbors in southern Colorado have enough to eat. Who can't get behind that?
Mike Procell: So you had already envisioned this sort of alignment, how things could work for you personally, as your own mission in life, to go from the military now to Care & Share. How long did you realize that about yourself, that this was going to be the next move?
Springer: I realized quickly that you can't turn off service. There has to be a good purpose and a good why to what you're doing, and if there's not a good purpose and a good why, I just think that you either get bored or you find something else.
I think Care & Share has the best purpose in southern Colorado. It has a purpose that can unify anyone, regardless of political affiliation or religion. It's just a neat, across-the-aisle type thing where everyone can come together and say… you know what, no one deserves to be hungry in southern Colorado, and that's something we can get behind. And so this is a dream job for me. They're going to have to chase me out of Care & Share with a pitchfork.
Procell: Do you sort of see this as a war on hunger?
Springer: I think it's an extension to what I've been doing the last few years. I've had the pleasure of living all over the world from the Pacific to Europe and everywhere else in between… Asia and Africa and the Middle East. And I've seen food insecurity at a level across the world that a lot of people haven't.
So when the opportunity at Care & Share came up… to stay here to support the people of southern Colorado… it's just really a calling for me. And to be able to work with such great people at Care & Share that feel the same, that have the same values, and that really care about their neighbors, that's just invaluable. And I think it's really hard to find today.
Procell: Something like one in seven people face hunger in southern Colorado. What do you think it will take to maybe improve those statistics?
Springer: Yeah, so we're in a challenging time, but we have a lot of opportunities. I would tell you that the challenging part of it is just like every American household, the costs of food and commodities and fuel and cold storage have all gone up at Care & Share. And we have a whole new group of neighbors, a whole new group of people in southern Colorado who have never needed assistance, but do now. And so there's a real opportunity to extend food to those people and to make sure that they're okay.
I would just say that our mission this year is at least as important as it has been anytime in the last decade because of that inflation and because people are struggling so much across the state.
Procell: Do you see that trend continuing to grow?
Springer: You know, I'm usually a pretty optimistic person. So I'd like to say there's light at the end of the tunnel. But I think we're gonna have to make our own luck on this.
Procell: Do you foresee any significant changes in operations overall or is this your watching and observing, and listening period?
Nathan Springer: Right. And you just reminded me of a story… sitting down with an elder in a small village in Afghanistan, he would always tell me that I talked too much, and that I have two ears and one mouth. I've always taken stock of that. So I'll spend a lot of time evaluating what we're doing and, uh, never too quick to go in and change something as a new leader in an organization. So I'm going to do a lot of listening.
Procell: So that's the future. Just a quick note on history… Care & Share began in 1972 in Colorado Springs on Wasatch Street. The original headquarters was there. And it was started by Sister Dominique Pisciotta.
Springer: That's correct. And I think Sister Dominique Pisciotta would really be amazed at the expansion of Care & Share… what started in a garage now supports half the state of Colorado. Food insecurity is a real thing. Food insecurity has gotten worse over the last couple years. And what a neat opportunity that we have, and a mission we have, to create food security in southern Colorado and make sure that no one goes to bed hungry.
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