The food bank at St. John the Baptist Parish in Longmont provides between 11,000 to 14,000 pounds of food each week to anywhere from 200 to 350 families. It’s not only the numbers that make it a special operation, but the relationships behind those numbers.
St. John’s Food Bank employs a unique model of delivering food to 90 percent of their clients, versus having them pick it up. In the process they get to know the individuals and families they serve while spending time together during their scheduled weekly visits.
“Our food bank is a tribute to all the people who work to make it happen,” said pastor Father Ron Weissbeck. “The model we have in place emphasizes the connection … workers and drivers have a relationship with the individual or family. They have a knowledge of them and challenge them to take responsibility … to get involved in the process.”
Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, beginning mid-morning, members from a team of 65 drivers—retired men and women, young mothers, deacons of the parish, former clients of the food bank and others—start arriving at the warehouse at 804 S. Lincoln St. to load their personal vehicles with food boxes to be delivered throughout Longmont.
The work day begins at 7 a.m. when volunteers arrive at the warehouse to take inventory, accept the delivery of the truck from Community Food Share in Louisville, purchase additional food needed, and load food boxes. They pack five different size boxes, from single to extra large, depending on the needs of the household.
Overall food insecurity for Boulder County stands at 13.7 percent, according to Feeding America, meaning in the county of 297,218 residents, 40,700 experience hunger or do not know where their next meal is coming from. Statewide, nearly one in six, or 840,000 people, experienced hunger in 2012; and 22 percent of households with children reported food hardship, according to Hunger Free Colorado
“The need is always extensive,” Father Weissbeck said. “You always have hungry people.”
The need can be the result of job loss, underemployment, illness or disability. Parish-based food banks such as St. John’s are critical in responding to the need.
“Hunger cannot be eradicated without community support,” said Michelle Ray, director of communications for Hunger Free Colorado. “Collaboration is key to breaking down barriers to access and fueling change for stronger, healthier communities. Churches across the state serve as emergency food providers, helping families and individuals who are struggling to get by and possibly unsure of when or where they will get their next meal.”
She urged action specifically during September dubbed Hunger Awareness Month
“We know it’s cruel and wrong to let children, seniors, veterans, our neighbors go hungry,” Ray said. “We all can take action in our communities by volunteering and donating during Hunger Awareness Month and throughout the year.”
Week after week volunteers perform “selfless acts of love” that allow St. John’s Food Bank to respond to those who turn to them, explained John Williams, parish outreach coordinator and director of the food bank.
“They help give our clients dignity and respect,” he said. In addition they provide information to help them find employment and other resources to gain independence.
Originally established in a space the size of a closet in 2002, the food operation has continued to expand over the years, moving to its current location in 2009: a warehouse purchased by parishioners Andrea and Dr. Brian Mathwich to help the ministry grow. This summer, the parish had the opportunity to buy the building from the Mathwichs for the same price they purchased it for: $485,000. To fund the purchase, the parish contributed $100,000 from savings, a parishioner appeal garnered $200,000 in donations, and the balance was financed through the archdiocese.
“It was an enormous gift (from Dr. Mathwich),” Williams said of the couple’s years of support and now in selling the building to the parish. “Purchase of the facility was a practical and sound decision.”
Father Weissbeck sees it as a testament to the faith and generosity of the community.
“Owning the property makes a clear statement that it’s an investment in outreach,” he said. “The outreach is then an expression of the Gospel message, an opportunity to live the faith.”
For more information on St. John’s Food Bank, visit www.johnthebaptist.org.
St. John the Baptist Food Bank | By the Numbers
Pounds of food distributed every week: 11,000-14,000
Average pounds of food per box: 55-70
Amount of fresh fruit and produce in boxes: 20%
Clients receiving food via home delivery: 90%
Volunteer drivers: 65 regular, 15 substitutes
Volunteers overall: 200
Paid employees: 2
Hunger in Colorado
1 in 6 Coloradans, more than 840,000, experienced hunger at some point in 2012.
1 in 5 Colorado households with children, 22%, reported food hardship between 2008 and 2012.
1 in 4 working families in Colorado do not have enough food to meet their basic needs.
1 in 7 Colorado seniors have been unsure of when or where they would get their next meal.
Source: Hunger Free Colorado