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Food Bank of the Rockies Q&A: Janie Gianotsos

What does Food Bank of the Rockies do?"We are a food bank with the mission of ending hunger in the area we serve and we do that in different ways. The core of our programs is that we're like a grocery store for 800-plus partner agencies, some of which are also your partner agencies, such as the Denver Rescue Mission, Project Angel Heart, Small Church Pantry, and Community Centers for Feeding People in Need. They come and get a large percentage of their food from our organization. We're able to provide that food from grocery stores and wholesale retailers through our Feeding America partnership. We get donations, we had refrigerated trucks and a huge warehouse—we're a grocery store for those organizations. It's much easier for them to have a centralized hub where they can come get what they need rather than going out and trying to raise their own food."

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the people you nourish through Food Bank?"I think a lot of people automatically think 'Oh, it's homeless people, the guy on the street with the sign.' In reality—they certainly get food through us and several of our programs, but it's maybe about 10 percent of people we serve. The other 90 percent can be people with health concerns—kids make up about 50 percent of food that goes out the door—people that are working and they just don't make enough to pay for everything they need. I think it's a real misconception that everyone is homeless."

What's one thing people you want to tell people about Food Bank of the Rockies?"I think it's important for people to be aware that hunger is an issue—one in seven people in Colorado are struggling to put enough food on the table. However they can help, we're happy to take their help!"

How does your mobile pantry work?"There are areas, pockets—we started with rural communities where we knew there wasn't enough food for the people up there and the agencies couldn't handle it or there weren't any agencies to handle it and we started bringing food up with the truck and were met by volunteers. The food gets put out—it's a client choice so the folks going through the line can choose from what we have. It was so successful in the rural communities that we realized there are pockets in the urban areas, too, that need a little more help. So we now have sites throughout our service area and we're on the road Monday-Saturday all over the Colorado service area."

Where do most of your donations come from?"That's another misconception—a lot of people want to have a food drive and that's usually how they think they can help the Food Bank. They say, 'We're going to go buy some mac and cheese and some peanut butter and bring it to you.' With every dollar we receive through the Food Bank we're able to procure four meals or five pounds of food. So the bulk of our food, the majority of it comes from the USDA, retail, wholesale, ranchers and food that we purchase."

Is it more effective for people to donate money to the Food Bank instead of hosting their own food drives?"Yes. Food drives account for—about 3 percent of the food we give out comes from food drives. You know, if you become a vegetarian and have leftover cans of chicken noodle soup, by all means bring it to us. But we can probably shop more effectively than 99 percent of people who want to help us."


Broncos staff members volunteered for the mobile pantry site with Food Bank of the Rockies distributing food and hygiene kits.

What are some ways people can help and give back through Food Bank? **"Volunteering is huge. We rely on volunteers to help us fill agency orders, go through USDA boxes, sort a lot of that product that we pick up from the grocery stores, all of that has to be sorted and cleaned and re-boxed. Volunteers help us with our mobile pantry program; they help us with our totes program, so they're a vital, critical part of our organization. We can use volunteers ages 14 and up, especially in January, February—those months when people aren't thinking as much about volunteering. It's a great time to come and help us."

What is Food Bank of the Rockies' relationship with the Denver Broncos like?"The Broncos have been just wonderful to us. They've helped us with our mobile pantry and give us contributions and share information about us on their site and social media, on the jumbotron at the stadium. We've gotten exposure and it's a wonderful partnership. We're so excited to be partnering with them on an upcoming event as well."

You support another Broncos community flagship partner with your Kids Café at the Boys & Girls Club, how does that relationship work?"That is such an awesome thing. Every time I go visit the Boys & Girls Clubs I am so impressed with what they do, how they work with the kids and give them so many wonderful opportunities. We are so glad we can partner in the feeding part of it so those kids when they're there playing basketball and doing arts and crafts and running around being kids, we know they'll get a meal. A lot of them come from our community kitchen and they're prepared by folks there that help serve the meals to the kids and it's Monday-Friday, they get dinner."

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