With roughly 16 million people newly on unemployment, food banks across the country are struggling to keep up with the demand. Many food banks are running out of food due to the increasing need and the overtaxed food supply chain across the country. Care and Share is one of the organizations that tries to meet the needs of men and women across southern Colorado, and recently received an incredible donation of food from the U.S. Olympic Committee

As part of Feed America, Care and Share impacts 31 counties in southern Colorado by supporting 267 partner agencies including various food pantries, church pantries, soup kitchens and other organizations that support hunger relief.

“We are the largest distributor of food to agencies across southern Colorado,” Lynne Telford, the CEO of Care and Share, said in an interview with The Daily Citizen. “We are able to acquire food like nobody’s business.”

But that hasn’t been as easy recently. With the coronavirus causing panic-induced spending sprees at local supermarkets, there is less food available for donation to various hunger relief organizations. As a result, the supply lines are overstressed as even grocery stores find it difficult to keep things on the shelves. That concern for southern Colorado agencies has been somewhat relieved because of this recent donation given by the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs.

“They’re delaying the Olympics for a year and the food they had was going to hit its expiration date at the end of this calendar year,” Telford said. “So, they knew they needed to do something with it. We have a good relationship with them and so they called us up and said, ‘Can we deliver this food to you?’ We were thrilled of course. The food that was being set aside to send to the athletes was super good food. It turned out to be a lot of granola bars and things like that that are so easy for us to hand out to people who are hungry. So, we accepted 18,000 pounds of food.”

The delivery was an incredible blessing to help the various pantries and hunger relief organizations throughout the southern half of the state that are trying to keep up with the demands of each respective community.

“There is a huge need, and some of our normal donation lines have dried up,” Telford said. “We have truckers that pick up at the back of grocery stores every day, but the grocery stores just don’t have much to give us right now. Their shelves are bare too. So, we’ve actually had to go out and purchase food and buy on the wholesale market.”

But meeting the needs of the community come first, especially when it comes to the elderly. Care and Share has partnered with other local nonprofits like the Salvation Army, COS I Love You and United Way to start a new program to reach these vulnerable members of society. If there is a senior in need, they just need to dial 211 and they will receive bag or bags of food delivered on their doorstep.

“I’ve heard a lot of stories from our partner agencies about people who never had to ask for food before,” Telford said. “We’re sending out about double of our normal volume. Last year, we distributed 18 million pounds of food. A lot of people just can’t miss a month’s worth of pay—and even if a family has dual incomes, if one loses their job that can hurt a lot.”

In order to make it more efficient for local food pantries to hand out food, Care and Share has also removed any of the fees attached to the food. So, for example, if a church pantry pays Care and Share for the food it provides for free in its pantry, it no longer has to pay that fee and can continue to provide for members of their local community without worrying about fundraising.

“Food is fundamental to what people need,” Telford said. “Even if they think they need to pay the utility bill, if we can ease their grocery bill then it makes it easier to pay that utility bill. The food that we give out is so helpful to families.”

Care and Share is also helping children who may be missing out on school lunches by providing food for both the child and his/her family. 

“We’re working every angle that we can to give food to people who need it,” Telford said. “I just feel so blessed to be able to do this work and to be able to make a difference. I would have a hard time staying home knowing that so many people are in need and feel lucky that I get to be at the forefront of helping people through this crisis.”

If you would like to help a local family by providing food, consider donating food to your local food bank or perhaps even a monetary donation. You can also volunteer at a local food bank as some regular volunteers, mostly retirees, have backed out due to concerns over the coronavirus. Also, be in prayer for the millions that find themselves out of work and wondering where their next meal is coming from and not knowing where they can reach out for help.