LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — A food bank in Lakewood says dwindling donations and a record number of families seeking help are creating an unprecedented crisis. 

Inside the Action Center, several shelves were bare. There were no boxes in the cereal section, a few cans in the soup section and the refrigerated dairy section was nearly empty, too.

“This is the worst I’ve seen in my eight years working at a food-supportive agency as far as incoming food meeting demand,” Caroline Alexander said. 

She said federal and state funding, leftovers from grocery stores and individual donations are a fraction of what they have previously received. At the same time, the number of people seeking help is increasing

“It’s a crisis,” she said. 

According to Alexander, prior to the pandemic, the Action Center served about 65-70 families per day. Now, they regularly serve more than 300 per day.

At food bank, distribution dwindles

Efrain Bustos said he started getting help at the food bank at the beginning of 2022 while he was out of work.

“This is my first time as a recipient of getting food,” Bustos said. “Actually, the first time I came here, I parked here and somebody said my car was very nice. And what am I doing here? Somebody who was just walking a dog.

“And so for me, it was very difficult to accept that, because first, I didn’t want to come and ask for help,” he said. “Yeah, you come with your nice car, but I needed the food.”

While the food he gets at the Action Center helps make ends meet, he said it is getting more difficult to fill the gaps. 

“I have seen the donations being smaller now. Yeah. When I came here originally it was more than plenty. They had big pallets. And my trunk was full and sometimes my backseat. Now it’s maybe a box and something else,” he said. 

High demand, low donations force new food bank limits

“These days, we are giving out 30 to 50% less food to every household coming for support,” Alexander said. 

She said the increased need combined with a lack of donations has led the Action Center to change some policies and limit how often families can get food. 

“It’s just sad that we’re not getting enough food right now,” Bustos said. 

According to Alexander, the food bank is not able to give out highly nutritious, fresh foods — like eggs, milk and meats — as often. 

“I think we will always have food but whether we have a well rounded distribution of food or whether we’re just able to supply a smaller amount than what we had,” she said. 

If you would like to donate to the Action Center or another food bank, Alexander suggests donating money because food banks can purchase groceries at a discount.