March 11, 2010

Joining Denver Foundation to strengthen fight against hunger

More than $200,000 in combined grant funding establishes new nonprofit, Hunger Free Colorado.

DENVER, Colo. — At a time when more and more Colorado families are struggling to put food on the table, The Denver Foundation and Kaiser Permanente have stepped up to support a new nonprofit aimed at addressing hunger in Colorado. Hunger Free Colorado, formerly known as the Colorado Coalition to End Hunger, is now the state’s single largest organization working to end hunger. It aims to do this by increasing participation in federal nutrition programs, food stamps, and school breakfast programs.

There is an urgent need in Colorado. The state has the fastest growing rate of childhood poverty in the United States, according to Kids Count 2008, with an increase of 84 percent over the past year. Food banks report record numbers of families coming to receive emergency food at the same time that donations are decreasing.

“Colorado has nearly 570,000 people living in poverty,” said Kathy Underhill, executive director of Hunger Free Colorado. “Our rates for food stamp participation are the worst in the nation, barely ahead of Guam. We rank 47th in the nation in Summer Food Service Programs, and only 8.2 percent of eligible children receive summer meals from the Summer Food Service Program.”

To help establish Hunger Free Colorado, Kaiser Permanente provided an $80,000 community benefit grant and The Denver Foundation awarded the organization $125,000 over three years from its Critical Needs Fund. The grants are earmarked for general operating support.

“In this challenging economy, we know families are struggling to find their next meal and this impacts so many aspects of a child and adult’s health, as well as their ability to thrive at work, school and in their community,” said Donna Lynne, DrPH, president, Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “Our mission is to improve the health of our community and we can help by supporting organizations like Hunger Free Colorado.”

“Especially since the economic downturn in 2008, The Denver Foundation and our donors have been working hard to help address hunger both on an emergency needs basis and at the systemic level,” says David Miller, president of The Denver Foundation. “Hunger Free Colorado is already changing how our state handles the issue of hunger. Children and families in our state will benefit dramatically from its work.”