About Food Connect Colorado

The idea for Food Connect Colorado was born when Toby Levy and Liz Watts met at a free food market in Parker, Colorado in 2019. Liz was serving a 10-month AmeriCorps assignment, and Toby was a regular volunteer. Though this was pre-pandemic, Toby and Liz saw the necessity for a free food pantry that was open several days a week. Further research revealed that the northeast section of the Denver, Colorado metro area is the only one that does not have a food pantry/market open more than a few hours a week. Also, the northeast neighborhood of Montbello in Denver has only one grocery store, which is about two miles from the majority of the residents. This qualifies Montbello as an urban food desert. So, Liz and Toby decided to start a food pantry in that area. We were granted 501(c)(3) status by the IRS on March 16, 2020.

The original plan was to be open at least 3 days a week, one of them Saturday, and including an evening. Then COVID happened. Everyone went to the drive-up model and that is how we started. We are a partner agency with Food Bank of the Rockies in Denver and currently all of our food is sourced from there. We pick up bulk food items from Food Bank of the Rockies and transport it to our warehouse where it is stocked on shelves in the market. We hold a free food market every Thursday from 10 am-5:30 pm where our guests can shop and choose their own food. No income requirements, must be a resident of the Aurora/Montbello Area. Every week, with the help of our valued volunteers, we stock our market with fresh produce, dairy, dry groceries, and bread and distribute it to people in our community.

Unlike other food pantries, whose main mission is feeding the food-insecure, Food Connect Colorado has a dual mission. We not only seek to feed the food-insecure, we want to do it with food that would otherwise be wasted. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 30% of food in American grocery stores is thrown away, as much as 20 pounds per person per month. Organic waste–mostly food–is the second biggest component of landfills, and landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions, a major contributor to climate change.

In their careers, Liz and Toby have seen the magnitude of food waste first hand. Both have worked at food pantries previously and personally threw out bread, dairy, and produce. While managing social events at a corporation, Toby saw how much food went uneaten. In her 450+ hours of volunteering at the Food Bank of the Rockies, Liz has seen gallons of milk and pallets of bread go into dumpsters. There is plenty of free food available; it just needs to be picked up and transported to the people who need it. In our nine months of operation, we have spent $240.92 on food. The vast majority of it was free.