Food drought affecting LIFT-UP

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— David Freseman saw something last week he had never seen in the three years he has worked at LIFT-UP of Routt County: empty shelves at the food bank.

He could see it coming, though. As executive director of the nonprofit organization, Freseman watched a six-month budget dwindle away in the first three months of 2003, largely because LIFT-UP had to reinforce its food bank to meet increasing demand.

"This has been one of the biggest droughts of food," Freseman said. "People don't realize how much poverty, if you will, is in the area."

Just last week, the food bank gave out 111 bags of groceries, which translates to about $2,700 worth of food, Freseman said. From Jan. 1 through March 31, the food bank distributed $29,430 worth of food, with the help of donations from residents and community organizations.

A poor national economy, layoffs and difficulty finding new jobs are all likely contributing factors in the increased demand for food bank services, Freseman said.

Routt County's January unemployment rate was 2.8 percent, up from 2.2 percent in 2002 and 1.6 percent in 2001, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

With bare cupboards, the food bank's doors closed Monday.

Tuesday, the Routt County Board of Realtors came to the rescue with a beautifully timed $700 donation of food.

Thanks to that donation, the food bank's doors are open again, but its need for continued donations is as great as ever.

LIFT-UP relies on individual donations as well as monthly donations from churches and the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club.

The Rotary Club, a community service organization, has been making contributions to the food bank on the third Tuesday of every month and has donated turkeys and hams during the winter holidays since 1998.

"It's important because we need to help those in the community in a time of need," said John Holloway, chairman of the Rotary Club's LIFT-UP Committee.

People can help the food bank by visiting Safeway or Curve Market Saturday and dropping off food items for the Boy Scouts Spring Food Drive. The Boy Scouts will have lists of items the food bank needs, which are mainly nonperishable items.

Donations to the LIFT-UP Food Bank also can be made at 325 Seventh St. or by calling 870-0727.

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