The giving season

Boulder’s main food pantry back in service and seeking holiday donations after water damage ruined supplies and forced a major rebuild

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Courtesy of EFAA

When Halloween passes and we push our clocks back for daylight saving time, many of us turn our attentions to the holiday season. Lest we forget, the grocery stores starting stocking shelves with candy canes on Nov. 1.

For many, the holiday season is special because of the food that accompanies it, from turkey and stuffing, to enchiladas, brisket and lamb roasts; from eggnog and glögg to abundant sweets, no matter the holiday. 

Because food helps us celebrate, it’s great timing that Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA) has refurbished and reopened its food pantry after a faulty sprinkler system went off and ruined it in July, along with some of the organization’s emergency shelter units and other facilities.

Last year, EFAA served food to 1,304 families in Boulder County during November and December. This year, it’s accepting donations so hundreds of local low-income and food-insecure families may enjoy the same food traditions we all anticipate every year.

“It’s almost unimaginable not to have the food pantry open during the holidays,” says EFAA Executive Director Julie Van Domelen. “We do turkeys, we do all kinds of food drives around the holidays. There are greater needs around this time of year because of the holiday season.”

Van Domelen says she is “relieved” the food pantry is back in place in North Boulder. EFAA’s primary location serves as the main food bank in Boulder and provides food for about 400 households every week. Though EFAA was able to accept donations and distribute food and other necessities at a temporary location while the building was being refurbished, it wasn’t able to operate at full capacity.

“I think we saw roughly the same number of people, but pounds [of food] out the door, pounds per person decreased,” Van Domelen says.

In order to make the temporary food bank work, EFAA staff and volunteers moved hundreds of pounds of salvageable food and equipment to another building in North Boulder. The operation was up and running within a day of the water damage at EFAA’s main food bank. Van Domelen credits a “really heavy volunteer effort” to not only set up the temporary bank but get the main bank operational again.

 “Our food pantry runs through volunteers,” Van Domelen says. “They moved everything, moving food and paperwork and all kinds of stuff, then they moved it all back up here. They’ve just been wonderful.”

The food bank is laid out like a regular, self-service grocery store, but during the holidays, EFAA seeks specific foods that people celebrating holidays might not be able to afford on their own. 

“During the holidays, we do drives [for] special items like turkeys or holiday foods, things like matzo and corn husks and pie crusts and those kinds of things,” Van Domelen says, adding that additionally, “a number of schools and faith-based communities run food drives around November and December,” which helps stock the pantry.”

The EFAA food bank is seeking donations this year — and accepting them starting Nov. 7 — to stock those holiday staples and replenish the supply of food that was lost. Frozen turkeys are in demand, as are staples like canned chili and tuna, frozen meat, baby food, condiments and large diapers (size 4 and 5, in particular).   

But of course, Van Domelen says, anything is appreciated.

“When you’re out today shopping, if you want to get one extra of everything and drop it off here, we’d appreciate it,” she says.

EFAA’s importance to the community is underscored not only by the many volunteers that help operate it, but by the number of events run by local businesses (many in the food and beverage realm) in the county to support it. There are too many restaurants, breweries and food businesses to name here that host festivals and fundraisers that benefit EFAA, donate food and materials in-kind, and otherwise support the food pantry.

Too, EFAA provides supportive programs to complement the food and other items it offers to the community. On Nov. 8, for instance, it’ll host an event that provides attendees tips for hosting a holiday dinner on a budget (go to efaa.org/all-event-list/holiday-meals-budget for more information.)

In short, it’s all a reminder of how deeply food is integrated into our lives and our communities, and how providing something as simple as a frozen turkey or an extra can of chili can help our neighbors have the happy holiday season (and beyond) we all want for ourselves.