Routt County nonprofits work hard to keep up as demand for services continues to grow

The LiftUp of Routt County food bank is shown here on Monday, June 27, 2022.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

LiftUp of Routt County’s Sue Fegelein understands the challenges of inflation as food expenses continue to climb along with the number of people seeking services and the amount of food being distributed through the food bank.

She also understands how it impacts the people she serves.

“We haven’t had to turn anyone away for lack of funding,” Fegelein said Thursday. “We are budgeting right now for next year, and it’s such a question mark. It’s hard to predict what we need, so at the very least, we are going to budget what we budgeted this year. Then we’re taking the actual numbers into account to see where we need to increase our budgets, particularly for housing and utility assistance — which was huge this year — and then food, honestly.”

Fegelein shares her concerns with other members of the Routt County Food Security Watchdogs, a group that includes LiftUp, Routt County Human Services, United Way of the Yampa Valley, The Health Partnership, Routt County Council on Aging, Heart of Steamboat United Methodist Church, Routt County Public Health, Northwest Colorado Health, Integrated Community and the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.

The group comes together every other month to discuss how to solve food security gaps in Routt County and work to communicate low-cost food options to residents.

One of those options is LiftUp of Routt County, which has food banks in Steamboat Springs. Fegelein, who serves as the executive director, said she sees the results of rising rents, utilities, gas and food on a daily basis.

“This is the most need that I’ve seen,” Fegelein said. “We were budgeting $88,000 in 2019 for housing assistance and this year it’s over $200,000. That was not that long ago for that big of jump, and it just hasn’t gone down since COVID.”

Fegelein is not alone, and many other organizations across Routt County are also seeing a demand for increased services for everything from food and help with rent to helping folks who are without a roof over their head to those seeking dental care.

LiftUp has seen a 118% increase in those seeking emergency financial assistant, a 28% increase in food being distributed, a 12% increase in the children served by Rocket Pack program and a 54% increase in USDA food programs.

Additionally, there has been a 56 % increase in community support expenses — this includes housing assistance — and a 70% increase in food purchase expenses. Fegelein said LiftUp has been able to absorb most of the costs for the rising demand.

“We’re heavily reliant on grants and donations, and so we’ve been very fortunate with donors and grantors who stepped up,” Fegelein said. “I do most of our grant writing, and I’m constantly looking for new grants, then getting creative about reaching out to places I haven’t reached out to before.”

She said business at the LiftUp of Routt County thrift store has also been strong, which helps support the food bank and programs that offer support to community members in need.

“We have tried to diversify what we’re selling in there, and now we are selling stuff we didn’t used to sell like small furniture and things like that,” Fegelein said. “That’s really helping on the income side of things where we really have a three-prong approach of thrift store sales, donations and grants.”

Fegelein said the current economic climate has turned what used to be a seasonal demand for assistance to a more consistent need, and as a result, it has forced organizations like LiftUp to find more creative approaches to fundraising.

She encourages people to have food drives and to donate, which is the best way to support LiftUp because the nonprofit can make cash donations go further by purchasing food at a discounted price from Food Bank of the Rockies.

“We have a monthly donor giving program, and we just started a business monthly giving program so businesses can give a certain amount per month,” Fegelein said. “We’re trying to find creative ways to get sustainable funding since what we’re seeing now is much more year-round than it used to be. It’s not just the holidays anymore.”

Kate Nowak, executive director of United Way of the Yampa Valley, also has community members coming to her looking for help.

“I think if everybody’s food costs are going up and if you are struggling to make ends meet, you have to make choices — ‘Am I’m going to buy extra $50 worth of food or am I going to spend that $50 on a bill for my electric, or gas or a tank of gas in my car?'” Nowak said. “So I think that is one of the reasons why the LiftUp food bank has seen such an increase. People are trying to supplement a little bit of their food budget with with the food bank so they have money for other things.”

She said the Food Security Watchdog group is a collaborative effort representing different organizations in Routt County.

“It’s really anybody who’s concerned about food insecurity, and we have a really nice, broad collaboration group,” Nowak said. “I think it was March where the SNAP benefits got pulled back from COVID, so we really wanted to put out as some kind of a newsletter or news flyer to the community to say, ‘Here’s where all the places you can find food and who is offering what services around food. That is something that doesn’t happen with just one or two organizations. It really takes a community effort.”

Food assistance and reducing food costs

Blessing Box
Available 24/7 to those in need
736 Oak St. (under the covered entrance)
Non-perishable food and personal care items
For more info go to

Integrated Community, 970-871-4599,
Integrated Communities can connect and refer clients to appropriate resources and provide professional interpretation/translation services to non-English-speaking communities. They can aid with food assistance applications and more. For info, email

Holy Name Catholic Church, 970-879-0671,
Free dinner 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays beginning Sept. 5 in the new Enrichment Center, 524 Oak St., Steamboat Springs. All are welcome.

LiftUp of Routt County, 970-870-8804,
Food Banks in Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek are available to Routt County residents with an income of 300% or lower of the Federal Poverty Level ($3,645 per month for an individual or $7,500 per month for for a family of four). Residents can shop once per month or twice per month for fresh produce.
The Grab ‘N Go section in each Food Bank is available to anyone who walks in during our open hours.
Rocket Pack health snacks for children program is available for school-aged children. Please visit one of LiftUp’s Food Bank locations to sign up or visit for an application and more information.

Routt County Department of Human Services, 970-870-5280,
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides supplemental assistance to help low-income individuals and families purchase food. Benefits are based on household composition, income and the combined resources of all household members. The new location at 135 Sixth St. is open.

Hayden Congregational Church, 970-276-3510,
Stop by to get a Blessing Box of food outside of church, which is regularly stocked at 202 E. Jefferson, Hayden.

Northwest Colorado Health Northwest Colorado Health in Steamboat Springs and Craig, 970-879-1362
Women, Infants and Children — WIC is a free nutrition program for women, children and families. Services include nutrition counseling, breastfeeding support and supplemental healthy foods. Qualified women receive four nutrition education appointments with a WIC educator per year. Women who participate in the sessions receive eWIC cards to buy wholesome foods. Pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to age 5 who live in Colorado must meet certain income requirements. For more information or to see if your family qualifies, call 970-871-7653.

Routt County Council on Aging, 970-879-0633,
Eat and Greet — Join us at one of our three dining sites. The recommended donation for meals is $3 for 60 and over. Reservations are required 24 hours in advance at 970-879-0633, Ext. 4.
Lunch is served at noon at the following locations and days.
Steamboat Springs Community Center: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
Oak Creek Community Center: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Hayden @ The Haven Community Center: Tuesday, Thrusday

Meals on Wheels
Any senior 60 years or older can receive a hot, delicious meal delivered to their door. The recommended donation for meals is $3. Reservations are required one week in advance at 970-879-0633.  Frozen meals are also available. Meals are delivered around noon on the following days.
Steamboat Springs: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
Oak Creek: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Hayden: Tuesday, Thursday
North Routt: Tuesday (frozen meals)

Routt County Extension, 970-879-0825,
The following Food Classes are offered this fall:
Bready for Fall — 10-11:30 a.m. Oct. 14 (location in Steamboat TBD). This class will have hands-on basic bread making, and we’ll learn about how bread has changed over time and how to get the most from the simplest ingredients. $5 to cover materials.

The Health Partnership, 970-875-3630,
The Health Partnership provides quality care coordination services, at no cost and regardless of immigration status, throughout the Yampa Valley. One of the many ways care coordinators support people is by connecting them with food resources in the community. To access our care coordination services call 970-875-3630, email, or fill out the request for services form on our website

Tips for stretching your food dollars
• Have a grocery list ready when you go to the store to avoid impulse buying
• Use coupons but only for items that your household will use
• Watch for sales on nonperishable items and stock up on them when they are less expensive
• Visit the discounted items section of the store for foods close to their expiration date that may be marked down in price
• Buy blocks of cheese and shred or slice them at home
• Buy frozen vegetables
• When shopping, look at the unit price on the price tag that’s on the shelf, it’s usually the price per ounce. Compare brands and make sure you are buying the lowest price per ounce.

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