Denver first responders could soon carry canned goods to help the hungry

DENVER -- Juanita Montoya spends every day trying to stock the shelves at Servicios de la Raza.

“I’m a beggar,” Montoya said. “I beg for food every day.”

Nestled in the area of Federal Boulevard and West Colfax Avenue, Servicios is a one-stop shop for the community, providing services like mental health assistance and a food pantry.

“The reason that people are going hungry is because they don’t know we’re out there,” Montoya said.

Denver leaders are trying to make the city safer. Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs says one of those ingredients is fixing food insecurity.

“How can you succeed if you’re hungry?” Riggs said. “You’re not getting the medical care you need, you’re not getting the education you need. We know it has those damaging effects when people don’t have food.”

That’s why Denver Public Safety plans to have police officers and firefighters carry non-perishable food in their units. The plan would be to pick the food up at local partners like food pantries and churches, and be stocked in case they see a need in the community.

“That if they run across someone that’s having a crisis and realize that they’re food insecure, we can leave that food but more importantly, put them in contact with another provider to help them long-term,” Riggs said.

“If I can get a firefighter or a police officer that’s going to the scene, going directly to the families, and being able to take the food, that’s a lot better than any marketing we can do,” Montoya said.

Not everyone loves the idea. Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith took to Facebook, saying in part “creating an expectation that [first responders] become a public food delivery service is a terrible idea.”

“This has to be community-minded. We need non-profits, faith-based organizations partnering with us,” Riggs said.

His goal is to not replace the services in the area, but rather help connect people to local partners.

If you’re looking to get involved, you can reach out to the department by emailing publicsafety@denvergov.org or by calling 720-913-6020.

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