Imagine trying to operate a Food Bank out of 900 square feet of space - with only one phone, a chair, and a card table. Sandy Bowden didn’t just imagine it, she did it.

    The genesis of the food bank was a survey in 1983 conducted by then VISTA volunteer, Sandy Bowden. The intent was to determine the food status of the elderly and low income residents in our community. One of the conclusions from the survey was a need for a centralized location for donated food. Fortunately, the re-organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was able to donate space in a building on east Oak Street in Fort Collins. In their first month of operation, they were proud to give out 3,800 pounds of food.

    The early years were difficult. Operating from a small space with little storage - Sandy, her family, and a cadre of volunteers would sometimes have to carry boxes of food down a dark flight of stairs to store it and then carry it back up for distribution. Food in those days came primarily from the leadership of Interfaith rotating food drives between different houses of worship.

    In 1987, thanks to the vision of one donor and board member, our current facility was purchased for the future growth of the Food Bank. At the time, the space was much more than we needed, but areas were rented out as a source of income for the Food Bank. Growth occurred organically as members of the community became aware of what the food bank was trying to accomplish. In 1987, under Sandy’s leadership, Cans Around the Oval collected 5,318 dry goods and 3,313 cans.

    At that time, several campus groups were involved. Since then Cans Around the Oval has become a community-wide event with impressive participation from the CSU students, staff, businesses and schools throughout the Poudre School District. Collectively, “Cans” brings in much needed food and money at a time of year when the racks in the warehouse need replenishing.

    In 1990, a new record was set when for the first time distribution hit one million pounds. Today, it takes us less than two months to distribute that same amount of food. In 1991, a prepared food donation program was launched with institutions like CSU and PVH. This program is still in operation. In 1995, a new 30x40 foot freezer was installed and at the time must have seemed huge. Now, there are times when we wonder if it will be large enough.

    One of our greatest challenges occurred in the summer of 1997, the morning following the Spring Creek flood. Incidentally, this was Chuck Gill's (our Assistant Director) first day on the job! The Food Bank was immediately inundated that morning with calls from the Red Cross asking us to begin helping over 300 families for everything they needed to clean up their homes and re-supply their food. The Red Cross came up with a voucher system so they could qualify the families, and then we took care of them when they came in to get assistance. We set up a donation point that weekend in front of Toddy’s (now Sunflower Market). We filled an entire tractor trailer that day with food and cleaning supplies.

    In 1998, a new repack room and commercial kitchen was opened allowing bulk foods to be packaged in client-sized portions. This occurred after Sandy Bowden had left her position as Director of the Food Bank, but she has told us that one of her best memories was coming back to visit and seeing that the kitchen space had been accomplished.

    In 2001, after completion of a capital campaign raising $850,000, employees moved into new offices in the front of the building and our Food Share program moved to the next level of service with a warehouse renovation to specifically dedicate space for the program.

    In 2005, the Kids Cafe program was launched at four sites in Larimer County. Today, we have a newly renovated kitchen where we can prepare up to 1,000 meals at a time and provide over 60,000 meals yearly to at-risk children.

    2006 was another big year when we expanded our Food Share program with a Loveland location.  In September 2011, after completion of a $2.2 million dollar capital campaign, the Food Bank expanded its southern Larimer County reach by opening a larger, more efficient Food Share pantry in Loveland at 2600 N. Lincoln Avenue. Today, our Loveland Food Share provides food to nearly 350 people each day.

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