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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!

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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!

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URGENT REPORT: 1 in 9 Coloradans are experiencing food insecurity. Your donation today will help provide 2X the nourishment for our neighbors.

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Make your WyoGives Day gift before midnight and have it matched to support Food Bank of Wyoming.

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Western Slope Dehydration Program Preserves Fresh Fruits, Creates Nutritious Snacks for Kids

Woman in commercial kitchen laying out sliced peaches on tray preparing for dehydration..
Kathey Swisher leads the dehydrator program at the Western Slope Etkin Family Distribution Center in Grand Junction. The resulting products are nutritious and tasty snacks for kids and individuals across the Western Slope. / Photo by Caitlyn Barnett

Kathey Swisher arrives at Food Bank of the Rockies Western Slope Etkin Family Distribution Center in Grand Junction by 6:00 a.m. to begin the process of creating nutritious fruit snacks that end up in weekend food bags for kids experiencing hunger. As the dehydration operations lead for the Food Bank, Swisher ensures that donated fresh fruit doesn’t go to waste.  

Swisher and two or three volunteers — who come in a little later — rinse, slice, and prep large quantities of peaches, apples, pears, and other fruits before placing everything on dehydrator trays. Hours later, the first batch of fruit is packaged and labeled and ready for distribution to the Food Bank’s Hunger Relief Partners. 

Swisher grew up on a farm near the distribution center where she continues to grow a huge garden of heirloom vegetables. For more than 20 years she has dehydrated her excess produce – to preserve the food and save storage space.  

Food Bank of the Rockies Western Slope’s dehydration program offers a delicious and nutritious snack that children love.  

“Kids say it tastes like candy,” said Steven Serve, volunteer operations supervisor for the Western Slope. “There’s no added sugar or preservatives” except for sometimes added lemon juice, a natural preservative that prevents fruit from turning brown due to oxidation after being sliced.  

When completely dried, the fruit is placed into zip-locked bags which are heat-sealed, then labeled of its contents, number of ounces, and an expiration date. Currently, all of the dried fruit goes to Food Bank of the Rockies’ Food for Kids Program on the Western Slope, Serve said.  

“Our goal is to produce enough eventually to expand to Denver and Wyoming food pantries,” Serve said. “We’re really proud of what we create; it’s tasty!”  

Local farmers, as well as other food-relief supporters like Sam’s Club, Walmart, and City Market stores, donate fresh fruit to Food Bank of the Rockies. The Food Banl also purchases fruit from local growers. 

Food Bank of the Rockies began dehydrating food at its former Western Slope distribution center location in 2015, but halted the program in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic regulations and to free up space for packing mobile pantry boxes. In March 2023, the distribution center relaunched its dehydration program in its new Etkin Family Distribution Center with the purchase of three commercial-sized dehydrators, each holding 30 trays — expanding its 2015 capacity from 45 trays to 90 trays currently. 

“Sometimes we end up with large quantities of fruit as it ripens and must be used,” Serve said. “We tend to have lots of apples, bananas, and sometimes we get pineapple, strawberries, and pears donated to us.” 

2 people preparing peaches for dehydration.Swisher, who began working at the distribution center in May 2023, learned to preserve food by canning when she was 12. As an adult, she began dehydrating food — mostly vegetables — to save space.  

“From there I started drying everything: dandelions [for use in a hand ointment I make], fish, wild meat jerky, herbs, and soup mixes,” she said. “Anything can be re-hydrated. You can even make pies out of dried, then rehydrated fruit.” 

While the Food Bank is currently dehydrating only fruit, Swisher said she hopes to eventually dehydrate veggies to create soup mixes for distribution at food pantries. Freezing is another way to preserve fresh fruit, and in February, the distribution center had a freezer full of pineapple, apples, bananas, blueberries and peaches. Swisher plans to eventually de-thaw the frozen fruit and make a puree with it to create fruit leather roll-ups – another tried and true kids’ snack. 

Food Bank of the Rockies Western Slope Dehydration Program is the only one of its kind among the 200 food banks in the Feeding America network and is a valuable asset to both Food Bank of the Rockies and the organization’s agricultural partners, said Sue Ellen Rodwick, Western Slope Director for Food Bank of the Rockies. 

“Our Totes of Hope™ recipients are now able to provide more nutritious snacks for kids,” Rodwick said. “We hope to grow the program through volunteer help in order to expand distribution to more Hunger Relief Partners providing food for kids.” 

The West End Family Link Center in Nucla, a Hunger Relief Partner of Food Bank of the Rockies, shared that families truly appreciate the program.  

“I have received nothing but positive feedback from parents about the dehydrated products,” a staff member at the center said. “They like the fact that they are healthy snacks for the kids, and the kids think it’s candy and love it.” 

Food Bank of the Rockies’ programs supported more than 77,500 children in fiscal year 2023, nearly 10,000 of whom live across the Western Slope. The Food Bank wants kids to always have enough to eat without worrying about accessing food, and dried fruit is a ready-to-eat, nutritious snack. This and all other Food Bank of the Rockies programs and operations are only possible thanks to the generosity of supporters. Click here to learn more about becoming a donor and making a difference for Western Slope neighbors. Thank you! 

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