Non-profit connects pipeline of excess food to community in need

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Project Worthmore is a fulcrum for a refugee community living primarily in Aurora.  It is a place where things can tip toward the better for hundreds of families looking to build a new life in a new country.

And one of the reasons this is true is that this tiny non-profit has made itself an important hub in the food redistribution efforts that are largely unseen across the Denver metro area.

“Healthy food can be a tough issue for the families we serve,” said Frank Anello, the non-profit’s executive director. “Many of them are coming from refugee camps and other places where they may not have had much access to food, and certainly not healthy food, all their lives.”

Project Worthmore, which already runs a dental clinic, citizenship classes and English language courses, took on the challenge of tapping into the metro area’s efforts to redirect thousands of pounds of food that would be otherwise wasted from restaurants, grocery stores and other sources. They found a partner in Denver Food Rescue, another non-profit that connects excess fruits and vegetables to organizations that can distribute them. They tapped into non-profit We Don’t Waste, with its refrigerated trucks that bring frozen meats and a host of other staples of a healthy diet.

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All of this is distributed by refugee volunteers and refugee staff at the non-profit’s brick building in Aurora. A room crammed with refrigerators and tables provide the pantry that more than 150 families use to get nearly 2,500 pounds of food a week. To help bridge the cultural divides that some vegetables and fruits present, Project Worthmore has developed cooking classes and other information to help; no small feat in at an organization where 27 different languages are spoken by the staff alone.

Looking to expand access to foods as well as find meaningful education and employment opportunities for the refugees that use the non-profit, Anello launched an additional partnership with Denver Urban Gardens and Aurora Parks and Open Space.

Called the Delany Community Farm, it is a 158-acre farm that allows refugees to learn sustainable agriculture while growing food for their families, their community and the larger area as well. Supported by grants as well as selling memberships in a share of the farm produced, commonly called Community Supported Agriculture shares, the farm has grown from an idea to full time work for four refugees and hundreds of pounds of food for the community.

Three days a week, Frank Anello and refugee staffers prepare the food pantry for community members in need. From noon until 2 p.m., a stream of people come through the doors and find what many have never before experienced, access to fresh, healthy food they can afford and support for learning more about preparing the foods they have never seen.

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“Our focus really is around providing the building blocks for a life here. Connecting people with what they need to be successful and filling gaps, so helping with food was just logical,” Anello said while watching staffers fill freezers with chicken breasts. “That we can make a difference in helping to redistribute excess food is really an incredible bonus.”