It’s an expensive time to be alive. Gas has reached an all-time high. Inflation keeps on rising. Grocery bills are draining wallets. By one measure, Americans are paying $460 per month more to buy the same things they did last year. It’s hard to imagine how many people have already been pushed beyond their breaking point — and how many more are nearing it.
The consequences of this extreme situation are certainly being felt far and wide, and the ramifications will reverberate in every direction for some time to come. But one unintended victim that is close to home and hurting now is our local food bank. When it becomes a burden to buy food for your own family, it becomes especially infeasible to buy extra food to donate.
So it’s no surprise then that donations to several local food banks have dropped. For Boulder’s Emergency Family Assistance Association the situation is getting dire. Walter O’Toole, the food bank’s manager, recently told the Camera that his inventory — especially nonperishable food, including meat and dairy products — is growing perilously low. So low, in fact, that he called on the community to host food drives.
“The current cost of living is putting the squeeze on many in our community, and we speculate that that’s having an impact on our donations,” EFAA Communications Manager Julia Woods said in an email. “Summer is usually our lowest season for food drives and food donations, and it is intensified by supply chain shortages and the recent ending of a government food assistance grant that EFAA relies on to purchase produce.”
And while inventory at food banks has gone down, visits to the food bank have only gone up.
“This shortage comes at a time when we are seeing more visits to the food bank than during the worst of the pandemic. It’s sort of a perfect storm,” Woods said.
It can often be hard to imagine Boulder as a place of need. It is — by most metrics and compared to most similarly sized cities — affluent and exceedingly healthy. But the fact is that 12% of children in Boulder are food insecure. That’s 9,000 kids who can’t count on their next meal. Zooming out, some 46,000 people are hungry in Boulder and Broomfield counties..
Pair these numbers with the stark reality that 30% to 50% of all food produced in the U.S. is thrown out, and it’s hard not to feel like more could be done. In fact, according to a 2016 food waste audit from the Boulder Food Rescue and researchers at CU Boulder, “even with conservative estimates, there is likely more than enough good food being discarded in Boulder and Broomfield counties to meet the caloric needs of all of the food-insecure individuals in the area.”
Solving all of these problems when they need to be solved — now — is not going to happen. To do that, cities, counties and the country as a whole would need to take decisive action and prioritize the right to food as a foundational need in the right to life that is guaranteed in our founding documents. The ways to do this are myriad and deserving of a column of their own.
For now, it is time for those who can — people, businesses, organizations, cities and counties — to step up and make sure our local food banks are stocked. Make sure there is no demand that is not met. Make sure that, as best we can, no child — no person — ever has to worry about where their next meal will come from.
How to help
EFAA accepts packaged goods up to one year past expiration. Perishable food items should be in good condition. EFAA also accepts toiletries and household products. Drop off food at 1575 Yarmouth Ave. in North Boulder Monday-Friday, 8:30-11:30 a.m.
To donate to the Emergency Family Assistance Association, go to efaa.org/donate/. For more information on hosting a food drive, contact Walter O’Toole at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-442-3042.