LiveWell Northwest Colorado: Choice food and food choice |

LiveWell Northwest Colorado: Choice food and food choice

Barb Parnell/For Steamboat Today

"If I have to choose between buying a carton of strawberries that my kids will scarf down in 10 minutes or a loaf of bread and package of boloney that will last us all week, I have to choose the bread and boloney." One morning this mom was at Lift-Up with her two girls, and the girls were eating Swiss Cake Rolls for breakfast.  Unfortunately, having to make food choices like this is a typical story for about 13 percent of the individuals in our county.

When was the last time you worried whether your food would run out before you had money to buy more? (If you answered "yes," please contact Lift-Up of Routt County, 970-870-8804 for support.)

For 3,000 Routt County individuals (800 of those are children), the answer is "yes," within the past 12 months. Of those 3,000 people, only about 1,500 are eligible for government programs such as SNAP (food stamps) and free/reduced school meals. In a previous article, I shared that it costs about 34-percent more to eat in Routt County as compared to the rest of Colorado, so even those on government programs usually only have enough money for three weeks of food each month. Since healthy foods typically cost more, those with lower incomes have their choices limited to highly processed foods tor those higher in fat and sugar, which tend to be less expensive. In addition, they might depend on the community for supplemental food and their choices are limited to what is available.

We are fortunate to have Lift-Up of Routt County, which provides emergency food assistance to almost 2,000 individuals each year at its three sites (Hayden, South Routt and Steamboat Springs). Thanks to the generous support of our community (churches, grocers, individuals), their food bank shelves stay stocked. Lift-Up's goal is not only to provide food, but also to make every effort to give clients healthy food choices. This is a significant change. Lift-Up's "Please Give Nutritiously" campaign encourages donors to provide choice foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables and proteins (e.g., peanut butter, canned meats) rather than processed foods and those high in fat and sugar.

LiveWell Northwest CO has been promoting the 5210 campaign throughout the county, recommending that everyone eat at least five servings (handfuls) of fruits and vegetables each day. But some of our residents simply cannot afford to make this happen. In a recent survey, Lift-Up clients overwhelming shared that they wished they had more fresh fruits and vegetables to eat. Staff at Lift-Up says that when fruits and vegetables are available, they "fly off our shelves." Unfortunately, fresh fruits and vegetables have not been as plentiful on the Lift-Up shelves.

How can community members help? Well they already are. Last year, a few community members started Grow A Row for Lift-Up. Recently a group of middle schoolers, who call themselves the Community Service Lift-Up, donated 89 bags of freshly picked lettuce they grew in their school garden. That single donation accounted for almost half the produce Lift-Up received in 2014. Community Cultivation, Euzoa Bible Church and many home gardeners are also donating fresh produce from their gardens this year to support Lift-Up's Grow a Row campaign.

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Not a gardener? Then support Lift-Up's Buy 1, Give 1 campaign. When you buy fresh produce, buy extra for Lift-Up (particularly during those months when garden produce is not available). Or have your business or social group make a commitment to provide a certain poundage of fresh fruit and vegetables once a month.

What if fruits and vegetables were so plentiful at Lift-Up they could be offered free on the front table instead of the baked goods they have now? We have the generosity and heart in our community to make sure everyone has choice foods to enjoy.

Help make Routt County the healthiest County in Colorado. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and donate fruits and vegetables so that everyone in Routt County can "make the healthy choice the easy choice".

Barb Parnell is community coordinator for LiveWell Northwest Colorado.