× Child smiling.

2X Match Deadline Extended

Hunger is on the rise across Colorado.

Now through April 30, your donation will be matched to make 2X the impact for our neighbors.

Help address the emergency level of need in our region while your gift = 2X the impact!

× Child smiling.

Hunger is on the rise across Colorado.

Now through midnight on April 30, your donation will be matched to make 2X the impact for our neighbors.

Help address the emergency level of need in our region while your gift = 2X the impact!


From Farm to Tables of Neighbors Facing Food Insecurity: Local Farm Partnerships a Win-Win

As part of the Culturally Responsive Food Initiative, clients were interviewed about what types of food they’d like to receive from Food Bank of the Rockies. On the Western Slope, chile peppers were one of the most requested items.

Across the Western Slope, partnerships with local farmers are proving to be very fruitful.

Food Bank of the Rockies offers fresh, locally grown produce for people facing food insecurity thanks in part to relationships with these farmers.

Food Bank of the Rockies sources food from 26 farmers, three ranchers, and two food hubs — food aggregators who work with farmers to provide transportation to various markets — across the Western Slope. Thanks to financial donations made by individuals and foundations, the Food Bank has the capacity to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as meat — a win-win for producers and community members.

Because of these relationships, Food Bank of the Rockies Western Slope recently received the Western Colorado Horticultural Society’s 2024 Friend of Agriculture Award, recognizing the organization’s partnerships with the region’s producers and farmers.

Occasionally farmers end up with a larger crop than expected — like last year when Cedaredge growers harvested a bumper crop of apples. It was more than their regular market could handle, said Sue Ellen Rodwick, Food Bank of the Rockies Western Slope Director. The Food Bank was able to purchase the excess apples at a discounted rate.

“We received apples from the fall until the beginning of February,” she said.

a person picking an apple from a tree
Rancho Duranzo is one of many local agricultural partners of Food Bank of the Rockies.

Another year, peaches ripened late in the season, causing growers to miss the prime retail sales window — “so the growers reached out to us” to sell their peaches, Rodwick said.

“As soon as we receive the food it can go out right away to our partners,” Rodwick noted. “Our team is trained on how to care for produce, to keep it fresh longer. The most volatile produce are berries, so we get those out right away to a local partner or mobile pantry.”

Food Bank of the Rockies can deal quickly with large quantities of produce at its Western Slope Etkin Family Distribution Center in Grand Junction, where some of the excess fruit is dehydrated to create tasty, nutritious snacks for kids.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Food Bank of the Rockies Western Slope doubled its transportation fleet to help collect perishable food quickly when it’s ready to get picked up. This spring, the Food Bank purchased a refrigerated trailer thanks to grant funding from Rocky Mountain Health Plans and the Vera and the Joseph Dresner Foundation.

“We’re thankful for that,” Rodwick said. “Having that means we can continue that level of service to ensure fresh produce distribution. We deliver to most regions weekly, including the West End, Steamboat, Meeker, Craig, Aspen, and Breckenridge.”

large containers of fresh peaches
Peaches and other produce are distributed to neighbors experiencing food insecurity at Food Bank of the Rockies’ mobile pantries.

Farmers often operate on a tight budget and can’t always afford to donate food, said Food Bank of the Rockies Purchasing Manger Colleen Daszkiewicz.

“A lot of these relationships are long-standing,” she said. “At this point I rely on growers to call me. It’s important for farmers to fulfill their market contracts first. We’re there for any excesses they have. We’re nimble; we can accept a high-volume truckload and can move it out of their storage really quickly. We can accept good, delicious products that retailers can’t accept.”

Food Bank of the Rockies works a lot with Rogers Mesa Fruit Packing, which serves farmers in the Hotchkiss area. Once a week, the Food Bank sends a truck to the food hub to collect produce considered less than perfect for retail markets — typically because the fruit is not a standard size.

“We work with at least a dozen farmers,” the hub’s sales manager, Debbie Dees, said. “We pack for some growers who are really small and also some large farms. The fruit is perfect — there’s nothing wrong with it except maybe it’s too small [or too big]. It helps our growers out a lot. We really appreciate the relationship; it makes such a difference for our growers.”

Throughout the growing season, from July through the end of October, the fruit packing hub offers Food Bank of the Rockies a variety of produce, including apples, pears, nectarines, berries, and apricots.

“I try and give them a nice mix depending on the time of year,” Dees said.

a person holding a large basket of apples.
Produce is made available to Food Bank of the Rockies’ Hunger Relief Partners.

Food Bank of the Rockies also sources fresh produce from a variety of Palisade producers, such as Talbott Farms, Clark Family Orchards, Rancho Durazno, and Kokopelli Farm Market.

The Food Bank is mindful of foods that are meaningful to certain cultures — such as tomatillos and chili peppers — and uses funds to purchase foods that aren’t often found in surplus.

Food Bank of the Rockies also purchases and offers high-quality protein for community members; it is in its third year of purchasing beef from Western Slope ranchers.

“We work with three local ranchers now — we used to not buy beef at all,” Rodwick said. “We received federal funding for local procurement which allowed us to purchase beef.”

While Food Bank of the Rockies’ primary goal is to provide nutritious food for humans, when food becomes no longer viable for human consumption, it doesn’t go to waste. Instead, overripe food is offered to pig and goat farmers. If they can’t use it, the food scraps are composted by partnering with Grand Junction’s composting pilot program. All measures help fulfill the Food Bank’s commitment to sustainability.

To support Food Bank of the Rockies’ partnerships with local producers and mission to provide communities with nourishing food, consider becoming a FEED365™ monthly donor or making a one-time donation today.


Already registered? Sign in

Enjoying this post? Subscribe for more great content.