Rosa Lino and her family were going through a tough time when they turned to Metro Caring for food assistance. That in turn led Lino, who moved to Denver from Peru, to start taking nutrition courses at the nonprofit, followed by additional classes in community leadership.
Lino has paid it forward by volunteering 20 hours a week at the nonprofit on 18th Avenue near the Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, advising other immigrants and working to address the root causes of food insecurity — inadequate wages and the lack of affordable housing.
“We do have jobs, but those jobs don’t pay enough. The salaries are very low and rent costs are very high,” Lino said of her family and many of those who turn to Metro Caring’s Fresh Foods Market.
The market, which could pass for a corner grocery store, provides the usual food bank stables such as canned and dry foods, but also provides meat and fresh produce, things like green apples, pears, Brussel sprouts, squash and cauliflower. It carries culturally relevant food that might appeal to recent immigrants and healthier options like gluten-free or plant-based.
“We want to provide a dignified shopping experience,” said Sarah Edwards, who collects food from donors to stock the market. Visitors are limited in how much meat they can take, but otherwise, they are allowed to claim about a week’s worth of food for a household.
Appointments to visit the market are made in advance either online or by calling ahead with no need to prove need or demonstrate a lack of income. One visit is allowed a month at the market and two emergency grocery bags are available for those who unexpectedly find themselves short.
Volunteers work a warehouse and processing area behind the store, where they sort through a steady flow of items that come in. Anything that isn’t market quality is set aside for composting or disposal. Grocers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, as well as the Food Bank of the Rockies, provide many of the donations. Gaps, such as in meat and culturally-focused food items, are purchased via cash donations, as is produce from area farmers.
“We believe food is a human right,” said Brandon McKinley, a spokesman for the nonprofit. Besides providing food in a store-like setting and nutrition programs, Metro Caring also promotes urban agriculture and community organizing to address the core issue that contributes to food insecurity.
McKinley said the organizing attempts to get at the core issues that contribute to why many people need food assistance — lack of a living wage, a lack of affordable housing and racial inequality.
“You can come to Metro Caring without fear and with your pride so you can get the help you need. We have a place that will solve the problem of hunger,” Lino said.
During the nonprofit’s most recent fiscal year, which ended March 31, an average of 1,700 individuals a week, the equivalent of 900 households, visited or received help from the Fresh Foods Market. About 239 people sought nutrition assistance and 9,600 vouchers for IDs, birth certificates, driver’s licenses and death certificates were issued, McKinley said.
Address: 1100 E. 18th Ave. Denver, CO 80218
In operation since: 1974
Number of employees: 30, plus more than 1,000 volunteers
Annual expenses: $9,636,917
Number of clients served: 3.3 million meals served; 30,799 unique families served
The Denver Post Season To Share is the annual holiday fundraising campaign for The Denver Post and The Denver Post Community Foundation, a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, tax identification #27-4328521. Grants are awarded to local nonprofit agencies that provide life-changing programs to help low-income children, families and individuals move out of poverty toward stabilization and self-sufficiency. Visit seasontoshare.com for more information.
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