Food bank breaks down barriers to assistance

Come one, come all — IFCS ends residency restrictions, hardship proof

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Step right up, don’t be shy.

One of the Denver metro area’s largest food banks, Integrated Family Community Services, says it has done all it can to remove barriers to receiving food and other assistance.

“All you need to do is show up,” said Todd McPherson, the director of outreach for the nonprofit located between Sheridan and southwest Denver.

Gone from the old days are residency restrictions, sign-up sheets, limits on visits or proof of hardship.

“The only way we could make it easier is if we delivered the food to you,” McPherson said.

Word is getting out — IFCS is now receiving clients from as far away as Colorado Springs and Weld County. As many as 3,800 people are receiving weekly food — that’s an increase of 500% over the busiest period last year, McPherson said — with two-thirds of them coming from outside the traditional IFCS service area in the southwest metro area.

Many of them are there for the first time, and quite a few have told staff they never expected to be in this position.

“Lots of them were in stable positions before COVID hit, but they’ve had the rug pulled out from under them,” McPherson said. “People don’t bounce right back from being laid off.”

Even people who are holding steady are welcome, he said. The idea is to lighten people’s grocery bill so they can put money toward other needs, like car repairs, utilities or saving up for holiday gifts for loved ones — though IFCS can sometimes help with those too.

“Have a conversation with us and we’ll figure out what we can do for you,” McPherson said.

But the vast majority of clients are there for food, and IFCS boasts a wide range of items not always found at neighborhood food pantries, including dairy and produce. Clients can even collect multiple boxes of food to take home to neighbors who can’t make it themselves.

IFCS has also boosted its capabilities in recent months with the addition of a conveyor belt system that allows contactless pickup.

Though the organization’s fundraising has sometimes struggled to keep up with demand, McPherson said IFCS is doing well at the moment, thanks to a wide variety of COVID-related grants and generous donors.

“Whether we’ll be able to stay at this level long-term is the question,” McPherson said. “Sometimes when crisis hits, we get a lot of help, but then it starts to dwindle. We’re trying to stay in this for the long haul.”

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