St. George’s Church, Lake County Build a Generation, Lake County Food Access Coalition and Cloud City Conservation Center Farm are collaborating to remodel the St. George’s kitchen and food pantry to create a new “Community Food Hub” for Lake County.
The Food Hub will bring Lake County’s food resources and food education programming under one roof to best serve food-insecure residents and increase access to healthy food for all Lake County residents.
St George’s currently serves an average of 10,000 free hot meals annually to community members. With an average of 100 families participating in St. George’s monthly distribution with Food Bank of the Rockies and an additional 75 food bags distributed each month through its food pantry, it appears that food insecurity is not an uncommon experience among Lake County residents.
The Community Food Hub will be located within St. George’s Church. This project is a collaboration of St. George’s Church, The Lake County Food Access Coalition, Lake County Build A Generation, Colorado Mountain College, Cloud City Conservation Center and the Lake County Public Health Agency.
The goal is to create a kitchen that is accessible to the community and can be used for cooking classes, food preservation and programming to increase access to healthy food in Lake County.
The Community Kitchen’s programming will be open to all of Lake County’s residents with a particular focus on serving those experiencing food insecurity. As a rural and isolated county, Lake County residents often face added barriers to leading healthy lives, especially when it comes to accessing healthy food.
Lake County is classified as a “food swamp”, according to the 2014 Livewell Leadville Community Food Access Assessment.
According to Hunger Free Colorado, 1 in 11 Coloradans (9%) struggle with hunger while 22% of respondents in the 2018 Lake County Healthy Food Access Community Assessment said that they did not have enough food to feed their families.
Both the 2014 and 2018 assessments recommended the creation of a food hub focusing on increasing access to healthy food, building relationships, and increased educational opportunities to address these barriers. With such a lack of healthy food options the Community Kitchen has the potential to have a significant impact on all Lake County residents, especially the 35.7 percent who live at or below 200 percent of poverty and are most likely to experience food insecurity (approximately 2,944 residents) (US Census Bureau).
Following the 2018 Lake County Healthy Food Access Community Assessment, the Community Meals program and the Lake County Food Access Coalition came together to create a food hub to bring together Lake County’s food resources and educational programing to more effectively serve the community.
Once completed, the Community Kitchen should provide increased access to healthy food alongside educational programs to ensure that all Lake County residents have access to the food they need to lead a healthy and quality life while also building a stronger community.
Programming within the kitchen will focus on increased access to healthy food and nutrition and cooking education. Access to healthy food will be increased through the Community Meals program which will have increased support from CMC culinary students, an improved client-choice model food pantry and expanded partnerships with Food Bank of the Rockies, Cloud City Farm and Colorado Farm to Table, all of which have pledged to increase donations as the kitchen’s storage and processing capacity increases.
When St. George’s receives donations of fresh produce larger than its capacity to distribute, produce will be processed and preserved for future community meals and distribution through the pantry, replacing highly processed foods.
Educational opportunities will be expanded as both CMC and the Lake County Public Health Agency move their cooking classes to the Community Kitchen. CMC’s culinary program with the Lake County School District will help provide additional support for Community Meals while the LCPHA Food Health program will provide free educational opportunities for community members. When the space is not being used by the above groups, it will be available for use by local food entrepreneurs in need of commercial kitchen space, which is not currently available within the county.
In order to execute the project properly and build a kitchen that will have a significant impact for decades to come, a budget of $558,830.14 has been created. Over $45,000 has already been secured through pro bono work.