President Elizabeth Watts said commercial real estate landlords rejected her organization because they didn’t want pantry among other businesses.
Food Connect Colorado had to move out of its Airport Boulevard location in April due to a significant increase in rents, Watts said. That shelf, cart, and refrigerator have been in storage ever since.
“We closed and put everything in [storage]And I thought, ‘Oh, look, it’s only been a few months and I’ll find a new place,'” she told Denver 7. “I’ve been looking for it ever since.”
Watts has expressed interest in a number of locations over the past few months, but has been unable to find a landlord or property manager willing to house the organization.
“It’s fine until they ask, ‘What do you want?’ And I say, ‘Oh, we’re the pantry.’ And right away they say things like, ‘Well, we don’t want that kind of business in our complexes and shopping centers,'” Watts said. It’s not the homeless and the drug addicts who come to the food pantry, it’s the families, it’s the elderly and the disabled, people with a lot of families. It’s the people who come to the food pantry.”
According to data compiled by Food Connect Colorado, nearly half of the people using the company’s service rented a home, and more than a third owned a home. Over 68% live in households of four or more people.
The organization operates as a functioning store that resembles a grocery store in almost every way. Except for the fact that it’s a food pantry, handing out food to ‘shoppers’. It distributes food primarily from Rocky’s Food Bank and is run by volunteers.
Food Connect Colorado and other food banks report an increased need for their services. According to Feeding America, 1 of her 12 in Colorado faces hunger, including her 1 in 9 of her children.
In addition to finding retail space to rent, Watts said he had many conversations with Aurora city representatives about finding commercial space. None have brought breakthroughs. A city spokesperson told Denver 7 that it did not have funds available for food pantries, but offered to partner with other pantries in the area.
Food Connect Colorado fills an important void in the Aurora area, allowing families to choose the best dining options for them, Watts said, and was open for hours each day. She hopes to find a space that can offer these benefits again soon.
“I want the community to know that maybe your neighbors came to my food pantry, but they probably didn’t say anything, so you might not know it,” she said. “It helps these people a lot. It helps make the difference between paying the rent or buying the medicine.”
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