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"Colorado Proud" Produce Heading to Pantries

As the cost of living in Colorado continues to rise, many families depend on food pantries just to get by. (Public Domain Pictures)
As the cost of living in Colorado continues to rise, many families depend on food pantries just to get by. (Public Domain Pictures)
May 29, 2018

DENVER – Colorado farmers are set to see a big boost in local spending, and more residents will have access to their produce, after the state's Joint Budget Committee earmarked $500,000 for purchasing so-called Colorado Proud goods.

Larry Martinez, associate director of Denver Inner City Parish's food pantry, says the money will put fresh fruits and vegetables on the shelves, which will give families better options than filling-but-less-healthy foods such as ramen and canned goods.

"This will not only allow for people to have access to more nutritious foods but also be able to have access to local foods, that will then also help out farmers," he says.

Martinez' group serves some 1,100 households per month and is one of more than 400 locally funded and staffed food pantries and food banks spread throughout Colorado. Each outlet can apply for up to $50,000 per year.

The state funding comes on the heels of a stalled federal farm bill that would have placed additional work requirements on food-stamp recipients.

Martinez says the vast majority of his clients already are working at least one job, and notes many families who are eligible for food stamps decide not to apply because of negative stereotypes.

Martinez says as the cost of living in Colorado continues to rise, the face of poverty is changing, with more friends and neighbors turning to food pantries just to get by.

"This really allows us to serve people who are stuck in between," he adds. "People who make a little bit more than the income threshold to qualify for a public benefit, but are still just struggling with access to nutritious food."

The new funding was spurred in large part by the Colorado Food Pantry Network, launched in 2014 by Hunger Free Colorado. Survey data showed that most families wanted fresh fruits and vegetables, but pantries couldn't meet those needs without additional resources. The funds will be distributed by a third-party community foundation selected by the Colorado Department of Human Services.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO