Igniting the power of community to nourish people facing hunger
The numbers are impressive: In the past 25 years, the Food Bank of the Rockies has expanded to serve more than 13 Western Slope counties and distributed over 100 million pounds of food to families, older adults and individuals across Colorado and Wyoming. To celebrate this quarter-century milestone, the organization recently hosted an open house at their brand-new facility, the Western Slope Etkin Family Distribution Center.
The new 50,400-square-foot distribution center in Grand Junction opened in December 2022. Its larger size and more versatile design allow Food Bank of the Rockies to distribute more nutritious food to people experiencing hunger, receive and deliver more fresh produce from local growers, and better serve its 145-plus partners across the Western Slope.
Last year, the food bank distributed 10.8 million pounds of food to people on the Western Slope. With the larger, modernized facility, they aim to increase that number by 55%
— to 16.8 million pounds of food annually — by 2027. Sue Ellen Rodwick, director of the Western Slope Distribution Center, explains that the new facility not only increases distribution capacity, but it also expands available resources.
“Now we’re able to better respond to specific nutrition needs of children and older adults through EverGreen Boxes™, a program of Everyday Eats for adults ages 60 and over, and Totes of Hope™, which provides food for kids when school is out of session,” says Sue Ellen.
Two other programs that involve large amounts of fresh, local fruits and vegetables and therefore necessitate more cold-storage capacity are also ramping up. When the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program expired in May 2021, Food Bank of the Rockies stepped up to fill the gap with the FRESH Program.
“With the new center we’ve been able to grow both the FRESH Program and the Culturally Responsive Food Initiative, which prioritizes foods that our neighbors are familiar with and have specifically requested,” says Sue Ellen.
In addition to the new Etkin Family Distribution Center in Grand Junction, the organization’s other major distribution hubs are located in Denver and Casper, Wyoming. In total, Food Bank of the Rockies has the largest service area of any food bank in the contiguous United States.
“Alpine Bank is a longstanding partner, providing both employee volunteers and financial support for building the new facility,” says Sue Ellen.
With the magnitude of its service area, people served, and the complexity of managing fresh food distribution, Sue Ellen and her team are immensely proud that Food Bank of the Rockies can also claim zero waste.
“We utilize all the food that goes through the distribution center,” says Sue Ellen. “We do that by either dehydrating food, or by donating what we can’t use to local goat and pig farmers.
Learn more at foodbankrockies.org/ws.
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