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April 7, 2021

Food Bank of the Rockies: Meet Corporate Relations Manager, Mitch Jelniker and learn about the organizations work in the Denver Community

TaiMichelle Bickham

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MCA Denver is proud to announce now through April 15, we are partnering with the Food Bank of the Rockies to raise additional funds and donations to support families in need during these challenging times. We are asking members to help out by donating during our first-ever virtual and in-person food drive. We interviewed Food Bank of the Rockies Corporate Relations Manager, Mitch Jelniker, to learn more about the important work the nonprofit organization does for our community.

Hi Mitch! First of all, how are you doing?

I am doing good, thank you, and staying plenty busy at the Food Bank of the Rockies.

Can you share with us your role with the Food Bank of the Rockies and how long you've been with the organization?

I am the Corporate Relations Manager for Food Bank of the Rockies, building partnerships with companies with a heart for helping the community. I have been with the food bank since mid-June 2019.

What inspired you to become part of the Food Bank of the Rockies?

As a journalist for 36 years with a reporting emphasis on nonprofits and volunteerism, I had the opportunity to visit and report on just about every charity that exists. So, I had a chance to see how nonprofits work. When I did stories on Food Bank of the Rockies, I quickly learned how impactful it was and how many people's lives were touched by what the staff and volunteers were doing.

Image of a volunteer standing in front of boxes filled with food donations
Volunteer at the Lowry Campus Mobile Pantry Drive in March 2021

Can you share a little history and mission of the Food Bank of the Rockies?

Food Bank of the Rockies is the largest hunger-relief organization in Colorado and Wyoming. It has been around since 1978. We provide food and essentials to people in need across about half of Colorado and the entire state of Wyoming. That's a 147,412 square mile service area! In collaboration with our community, including more than 800 Hunger Relief Partners, we work together to ensure around 850,000 people in our service area struggling with food insecurity have access to nutritious food.

What do you love most about being part of this organization?

I enjoy the immediate impact we can have on people who are facing hunger. When you partner with Food Bank of the Rockies, someone facing food insecurity can access food right away. The organization is a logistical success story. There are so many things in the world that don't always work as they should. We're not perfect, but the food banking system works. It can immediately help improve people's lives.

How did 2020 change how and who Food Bank of the Rockies serves?

Food Bank of the Rockies has seen a tremendous increase in need across Colorado and Wyoming as a result of COVID-19. We distributed more than 100 million pounds of food in 2020, which is 43% more than the food we distributed in the previous year (2019). About 40% of the people visiting our more than 800 Hunger Relief Partners for food tell us they had never considered food assistance before. So, there are a lot of new faces. It's a sobering fact that 1 in 7 people and 1 in 5 children face food insecurity in Colorado. Therefore, our monthly food distribution is 50% higher than before the health crisis, with some months more than 80% over pre-COVID-19 levels. That means we're distributing enough food to provide more than 250,000 meals daily. We doubled home deliveries to older adults sheltering in place, shifted distributions to drive through mobile pantries, added a night shift, rented refrigerated trailers, formed new partnerships, created a culturally responsive food initiative distributing highly requested items like tortillas and masa flour, shared financial resources with hundreds of Hunger Relief Partners to fortify their efforts, and spent millions of dollars on additional food purchases. Now, you can see why I said we've been busy!

Volunteers in the distribution center loading boxes with a quote on the back wall "Heroes are made when everyday people like you and me decide to be extraordinary." back wall "
Volunteers at the Distribution center in August 2020

We are excited to be part of the food donation drive in April. In what other ways can our community support the Food Bank of the Rockies?

If you're comfortable volunteering, we accept volunteers each workday at our warehouse to help us pack food. Our facility is a vibrant, happy place designed to accommodate volunteers in a safe, healthy setting. We have capped the number of people who can enter our building each day to promote social distancing during the pandemic. We have added cleaning sweeps and hand sanitizing stations, and everyone must wear a face mask. And we have lowered the minimum age to volunteer to children eight and up – when accompanied by an adult. Volunteering alongside your family can provide an excellent lesson for your kids about contributing to the community.

You can also donate. For every 1 dollar we receive, we can provide four nutritious meals! So, it doesn't break your budget to make a difference.

What are you hopeful for in 2021?

We hope to shorten the food lines as we get on the other side of this health crisis. But we know that not everyone will magically get a job as the economy recovers. We anticipate seeing an elevated need for the foreseeable future. History shows that improvements in food insecurity often lag behind economic recoveries. That was certainly the case during the housing crisis in 2008 and 2009.

two volunteers wearing masks giving a thumbs up while loading boxes of food donations
Volunteers at the Distribution center in August 2020

Anything I missed that you would like to share? 

If you're ever in need of food, reach out to a hunger-relief organization. It is designed for anyone needing food. I think some people incorrectly assume the food is intended for someone other than them. We don't want people choosing between food and their electric bill or rationing their medication, or defaulting on a loan to eat. Food is a fundamental human right, and we're here to help you get access to nutritious food. 75% of the food we distribute is meat, protein, dairy, fruit, vegetables, and grains. With nutritious food, you and your family can thrive.

You can contribute in person by visiting the museum and drop off your non-perishable food items and/or non-glass container items to the front desk during your visit that will be delivered to the Food Bank of the Rockies. You can also donate online, where your contribution will allow the Food Bank of the Rockies to purchase food items in bulk and provide items based on their greatest need. No donation is too small! The dollar goes a long way and can help provide up to four meals for families in need. 

READ UP ON MCA DENVER & FOOD BANK OF THE ROCKIES FOOD DONATION DRIVE HERE