From the Colorado Health Foundation
For the Estes Park Trail-Gazette
A large and broad collection of Colorado leaders, including hunger and nutrition nonprofits, health care providers, state agencies, local county governments, schools, community-based organizations and individuals experiencing hunger launched an effort this week to end hunger across the state.
The coalition launched their work with a report, The Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger, which lays out a five-year effort of clear and actionable strategies to end hunger for all Coloradans by building on past successes and employing innovations in local communities statewide.
"This is, quite simply, an imperative for our state. To have a single Coloradan - particularly our kids and our seniors - go to bed hungry or worry about how they will eat the next day is unacceptable," said Governor John Hickenlooper. "Letting our kids go hungry. Making our seniors chose between medicine and food. This is not who we are."
Hunger is a real and present issue in too many of our state's homes. In fact, one in six Colorado kids are hungry and one in 10 Colorado seniors lack access to enough healthy, affordable food. Overall, about one in 10 Coloradans struggle with not always having enough money to buy the food they need.
A statewide steering committee of more than 35 organizations and individuals developed the Blueprint and its recommendations with input from more than 100 additional organizations.
"Here in Colorado, we're always ready to try bold and innovative approaches to better serve people in our communities who need our help the most," said Reggie Bicha, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services. "We know that your kids are better prepared to learn when they've had breakfast. We know your families can become stronger when you sit around the dinner table together, and we know that revitalizing and expanding the ways we deliver food and benefit assistance through a 21st-century human services system can help make the future brighter for all Coloradans. This broad collaborative effort is proof that Colorado is up to the challenge of ending hunger in our state."
It is well documented that hunger has profound repercussions on key areas for individuals including child development, educational attainment, mental health and overall health and wellness. Hunger also negatively impacts our economy at the local and state level including lost workforce contributions and increased health care costs.
Groups who developed the Blueprint agreed that while hunger is a solvable issue for our state, a comprehensive and coordinated effort is needed at every level to make the change needed. Overreliance on any one source of supports is not a workable solution.
"What we know, is that no one organization can solve this problem alone. It's only through coordination and better inclusion of those experiencing hunger in our work that we'll get to a place where we can truly say that hunger is a problem of the past," said Bob O'Connor, chair of Feeding Colorado and executive director of the Weld County Food Bank. "Hunger is a complex issue with many tentacles. The Blueprint to End Hunger is solution based and uses creative and innovative methods to improve food access. We are excited about the new partners this Blueprint will create and look forwarded to the hard work of ending hunger in Colorado."
Key elements of the plan include efforts to maximize enrollment of income-eligible Coloradans in both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Woman, Infants and Children Food and Nutrition Service (WIC), which focuses on mothers, infants, and children under five years of age. The Blueprint also calls for boosting participation in Federal Child Nutrition programs and expanding the number of Coloradans who can access the food they need through community-based organizations.
"The development of the Blueprint by a dedicated group of Coloradans clearly demonstrates that we have the ingenuity and energy to address our own challenges. And hunger is a challenge that puts health out of reach for far too many people. Whether you realize it or not, you know a family that wonders how they will feed their children. You know a senior on a fixed income that struggles with how they will afford health care and food," states Karen McNeil-Miller, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation. "I hope that in our relentless efforts to achieve health equity - the promise to end hunger in Colorado will become a reality."
The Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger is a five-year plan to end hunger for all Coloradans. It was developed, with funding from the Colorado Health Foundation, by individuals and organizations from across the state who are working on or experiencing hunger in their own homes and communities. To learn more, visit endhungerco.org.