LAFAYETTE, Colo. (KDVR) — While higher prices at the grocery stores force more people to turn to food banks for help, food banks themselves are also struggling with decreased donations.

Two hours before the food bank opened to shoppers Tuesday afternoon, a woman and two children peered through the windows at Sister Carmen Community Center in Lafayette, waiting for their turn to get ingredients to take home. 

“We often have a line of cars going down the block before we open at 1 o’clock,” Sister Carmen Director of Development Kristen Bohanon said.

By 12:15 p.m. at least half a dozen vehicles were out front waiting to shop the shelves, which are stocked with staples like pasta, beans and canned goods, but also offer baked goods, fresh produce, milk, meat, diapers, pet food, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items. 

“I think that it’s important for the community to know that there is a large part of this community that does need assistance,” Bohanon said. “Even though this is a beautiful town, this is a beautiful area, but there are people that do need help.”

Currently, she said the number of people visiting their food bank is growing by about 20% per quarter. 

“This last year we were serving about 40 families a day. Now we’re seeing 70 to 80 families a day. So our need that we’re seeing in the community has doubled. And that didn’t happen overnight. That’s been happening consistently over the last six months,” Bohanon said. 

Colorado food bank visitors impacted by rising prices

Sister Carmen helped residents in Louisville, Superior and Boulder County following the Marshall Fire. However, Bohanon said the increased need for services that she is talking about does not include families affected by the fire. 

“I think what we’re hearing from people a lot is just the increase in prices of everything is really affecting them. Food is more expensive. Gas is more expensive. And then on top of that, people are receiving a lot less assistance than they were during the pandemic,” she said.

The food bank itself is also receiving less assistance. 

“Right now it is hard for us to provide for that many people and so what we really need are food donations right now,” Bohanon said. 

She said summers are always difficult because of a decrease in organized food drives and a lack of giving while donors are focused on other summer activities. 

However, this year the problem is coupled with a decrease in food donations from other sources, like grocery stores, that the food banks works with on a regular basis.

“So we’ve seen about 10,000 pounds less of food every month from grocery stores possibly because they’re also getting hit by the supply chain issues,” Bohanon said.

Food banks need donations

Sister Carmen is getting less food in but still needs to provide more food than ever. According to Bohanon, food banks across the region are experiencing a similar squeeze. 

“It’s definitely regional and probably beyond that but I think we’re hearing from our partner organizations that they’re seeing this kind of increase as well,” she said. 

Most local food banks, including Sister Carmen, take both physical items as well as cash donations. 

High demand items include tortillas, condiments, household cleaning produces, toiletries, baby formula and wipes, paper products, jams, canned tomatoes, canned beans and pet food. Additionally, food banks need canned fruits, canned proteins, baking items like sugar, spices and oils, peanut butter, canned soup, snacks, over the counter medications like vitamins and pain relievers.