How the Beyond Hunger program — a response to the COVID-19 pandemic — is helping to uplift and support the Denver community.
The COVID-19 pandemic made food access harder for everyone — especially those already in need of food assistance. The YMCA of Metro Denver wanted to aid in this issue by creating the Beyond Hunger program, an organized program that helps distribute food to those in the community who need it.
“The Beyond Hunger program helps to supplement food for families in our community on a weekly basis, so those who participate and receive food bags can feel more confident they will have food available that week,” said Peter Duda, the program manager for Beyond Hunger. “With our focus on including fresh food items, participants are receiving foods they otherwise may not have access to, like fresh fruits and vegetables and meat.”
The Beyond Hunger program operates with food distribution on a weekly basis every Thursday. Duda receives the food items at the Southwest YMCA that have been ordered from community partners to be distributed that day. Volunteers arrive at the Y for the first shift — 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. — to set up tables for laying out food items, breaking down boxes and working in an assembly line to fill bags with the food items. The food bags are then ready to go.
Volunteers arrive for the second shift — from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. — for food bag distribution. Participants drive up to the YMCA front door, are greeted by Duda and volunteers, and receive one or two bags of food to bring home to their families.
The program creates a space for people in the Denver community to receive or to give back. The YMCA takes in food donations from both individuals and organizations in the community that help fill about 65 bags of food every single week.
“Our program also relies on the work of our amazing volunteers,” explained Duda. “They tell us they also benefit from the program because they’re able to meet new people and give back to their own community.”
While all food is good food, when there is limited access to any food we strive to provide nutritious food items to our participants, as these types of foods can be even harder to access. Most food pantries provide a lot of shelf-stable food items such as canned and boxed goods. Beyond Hunger is unique because of the focus on providing fresh food items every single week.
The Beyond Hunger program is a YMCA program, which positions us to help connect our Beyond Hunger participants with other programs, services and resources that support them in other ways. This includes health programs within the YMCA such as diabetes prevention, nutrition, mental wellness and fitness programs — as well as supplies resources through our community partnerships.
There are no eligibility requirements for someone to receive food bags. We do not ask any demographic or personal questions — if you sign up and show up for a bag of food, you’ll get it no questions asked.
*Photo courtesy of YMCA of Metro Denver.
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