Public Health partnerships help promote nutrition
March 19, 2021
Garfield County Public Health partnered with numerous local nonprofits and programs to help provide families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown with nutritious food over the past year. Staff also helped coordinate and distribute diapers and formula in the early stages of the pandemic.
The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided quarantine food boxes to county staff, which then worked with its partners to distribute the supplies to local families. Public health worked with The River Center, Roaring Fork Family Resource Center, District 16 Family Resource Center, Safe and Abundant Nutrition Alliance (SANA), LIFT-UP and more to distribute the food to the community.
Christine Dolan, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) director and Nutrition Program manager for Garfield County Public Health, told the Board of County Commissioners that Hunger Free Colorado reported that 38 percent of the people surveyed statewide considered themselves food insecure.
“They felt they did not have consistent access to healthy food and households with children were especially hit hard when the pandemic took hold,” she said. “The estimate is that 50 percent of families have experienced some food insecurity.”
Dolan told the board that LIFT-Up has seen an increase in food-distribution services of 400 percent, noting that in January and February 2021, the nonprofit served 1,440 and 701 families, respectively. These figures are down from the peak in April 2020, when LIFT-UP served 3,390 families.
“They’ve pivoted to a drive-through system and will continue to do it that way for the foreseeable future,” she told the commissioners.
In February, Food Bank of the Rockies partnered with LIFT-UP to help provide food for families from Aspen to Parachute. It served 589 families from a mobile site at Rifle Middle School, and
another 409 at a similar site at Glenwood Middle School.
“They really stepped up to help meet increased food demand in the region,” Dolan said. Locally, Meals on Wheels saw an increase in services of six percent in 2020 and delivered 75 “blizzard bags” that contain 48-hours of shelf-stable food during storms in December. Shelf stable foods are also being delivered to people who have tested positive for COVID-19, providing them with food supplies that won’t spoil and will be available until they are well again.
“This is to help people who don’t have the support of family or friends,” Dolan explained. “We provide them with those food boxes as well as some supplemental foods. We have partners in this process who have taken on the some of the responsibilities of delivering food and helping with other needs, like rental assistance and the like.”
WIC has seen its caseload increase by 10 percent during the pandemic and is making referrals to community partners for rent assistance, COVID testing and vaccinations for clients and their family members. Staff has also been providing breast milk pumps and handing out Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to clients.
Dolan added that local school districts are also partnering to provide families with food, ensuring that students have enough to eat.
“The districts have been impressive in pivoting their models to provide food to remote learners, as well as in-person learners,” she said. “They are providing grab-and-go meals for numerous cohorts of students, while serving kids in multiple locations, and many times breakfast and lunch. They are really hustling to get food out to the kids.”
More information on food security is available at garfield-county.com.