Rising food costs, changes to grocery store procedures and supply chain issues have made it hard for some people to put food on the table — a problem exacerbated by other factors in one’s life that could lead to food insecurity. For Arvada-based food pantry Community Table, facing these challenges is just another day at the office.
Since 2019, the nonprofit has seen a 30% increase in the number of people it serves — Community Table now works with 1,700 families, or roughly 5,000 individuals, a month.
In the past, Community Table relied on grocery rescue programs — wherein grocery chains donate food that’s past its best-buy date — but the aforementioned issues impacting food availability have mostly run that well dry.
Rocky Baldassare, Community Table’s director of food programs, said that while the nonprofit used to have about 30 pickups a week from grocery rescue programs, that number has dwindled, with entire categories of food — including meat and produce — disappearing from availability.
Baldassare said that some chains have employed practices that keep food on the shelf longer than in the past.
“(Grocery stores) are not donating as much as they used to at all,” Baldassare said. “Now, they’re trying to sell food as late as they can."
Thankfully for the nonprofit and the 5,000 people it serves monthly, the Arvada community has stepped up to support when it can.
After Community Table rescinded its boundaries at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it opened its doors to the entire surrounding community — not just Arvada, which it had primarily served in the past. The food pantry remained open throughout the pandemic, offering food and other services to vulnerable populations in trying times.
The support appears to be twofold —as Community Table expanded its borders, residents of surrounding communities have pitched in to keep food on the shelves for their less fortunate neighbors.
“We fortunately have a great community, primarily in Arvada and Wheat Ridge, that’s stepped up to help out their citizenry,” Sandy Martin, Community Table’s CEO said. “When the pandemic hit, we got rid of boundaries because we were one of the few pantries that stayed open. the last thing we want to do is turn people away. That’s not meeting our mission.”
Martin and Baldassare said that in addition to donations, the pantry has to purchase a lot of the food it offers, which is only possible thanks to the generosity of donors. Baldassare said the nonprofit purchases about 5,000 pounds of food a week, and that used to be a monthly expense.
Rising food insecurity has prompted Community Table to allow people to pick up more food. In the past, people were limited to shopping at the nonprofit’s grocery store 12 times a year; now they may shop twice a month. Folks can also pick up free boxes of food as often as needed, though they do not get to select the food themselves if they opt for the box.
“We decided that twice a month would be more realistic for families. That’s on par with what a lot of other places have gone to,” Baldassare said.
In addition to combating food shortages, Community Table has gone above and beyond for the people it serves, partnering with about a dozen local organizations and nonprofits to provide a whole lot more than food.
Community Table has on-site medical and dental care, showers, laundry, mental health counseling, housing navigation, enrollment in government assistance programs and other services.
Martin said she hopes that offering on-site services in the heart of Arvada — Community Table is located at 8555 W 57th Ave., near Olde Town — will help people who may not have the means to bounce around a bunch of different locations trying to get help.
“A lot of people are using us that never thought they would need to,” Martin said. “We kind of consider ourselves a hub in Arvada for these types of services. It’s difficult to get down to the county (building in Golden). We’re right in the community.”
The following are a list of Community Table’s partnerships:
Medical Care: Stride Medical, Red Rocks Community College
Community Table has partnered with Stride Medical to provide primary care services for people who are uninsured or underinsured. Stride comes to Community Table’s campus every Wednesday, and Red Rocks Community College will soon begin offering medical services at the nonprofit as well.
Dentistry: No Smile Left Behind
Third Wednesday of the month
Once a month, No Smile Left Behind performs basic dentistry for patients on Medicaid or those who are uninsured. The nonprofit cannot provide dental surgeries but can give referrals for those in need.
Shower and laundry truck: Bayaud, The Dignity Project
Fridays (Tuesdays forthcoming)
Every Friday, Bayaud Enterprises’ shower and laundry truck rolls up to Community Table, offering free, hot showers and complimentary laundry. The Dignity Project has a similar truck that will begin visiting Community Table on Tuesdays starting soon.
DMV services: DMV To Go
Third Friday of the month
DMV To Go offers full DMV services — including drivers licenses and car registration — for all community members on the third Friday of the month.
Mental health: Ardent Foundation workshops, Advocates for Recovery
The Ardent Foundation provides quarterly workshops on mental health, the last of which focused on coping mechanisms and stress relief, and the next of which will be held in July. These sessions are open to the whole community.
Advocates for Recovery provide weekly meetings with clients interested in recovery services, every Tuesday.
Government assistance: Jefferson County, Benefits in Action
On Wednesdays, a representative from Jefferson County or one from nonprofit Benefits in Action come to help folks with enrollment in government assistance programs including SNAP and WIC. Representatives help clients identify and enroll in programs they might be eligible for.
Housing navigation: City of Arvada
Arvada Housing Navigator Lisa Chavez meets with clients on Fridays at Community Table to help them apply for affordable and government-assisted housing.
In addition to these partnerships, Community Table is working on finalizing a partnership with the Jefferson Center for Mental Health to get a kiosk set up on site. The nonprofit partners with the City of Arvada’s One Small Step program for homeless criminal defendants, offering a table with resources outside of the courtroom.
Community Table also runs five mobile food pantries: Elevado Mobile Home Estates, the Arvada House, Mountain Vista, Highlands West and Mountain Terrace are the communities the nonprofit serves with its mobile pantry, spread out from Arvada to Wheat Ridge to Westminster.
A partnership with Doordash’s Project Dash allows Community Table to reach 50 individuals who are unable to come to the nonprofit’s Arvada campus in person. Baldassare said that staff is evaluating how many people can be included in the free program going forward.
The United States Postal Service Food Drive returned this year after going on hiatus during the pandemic — Community Table has received about 63,000 pounds of food, short of its 80,000-pound goal. Donations for the United States Postal Service Food Drive will be accepted until Sunday, May 28.
Martin said Community Table’s biggest need right now is canned goods.
“We really need to donations of canned goods and those kinds of items because those have gone down,” Martin said. “We’re still having supply chain problems, the rising cost of food, it’s increasing for (donor’s) families too. So, we don’t get as much food as we could use. "
Martin added that the donated food brings in a variety.
“As opposed for us going somewhere and buying 10 cases of green beans: they’re bringing in carrots and corn and it’s giving us a real variety to the store,” Martin said. “Plus, the community likes to help with this program.”