Feeding neighbors fills community need

Father, daughter provide food pantry, snack boxes

Posted 8/7/18

Deidra Bates believes that if every neighborhood had a food pantry box, nobody would go hungry. So, about a year ago, she set up such a box outside of her southwest Denver home, near South Federal …

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Feeding neighbors fills community need

Father, daughter provide food pantry, snack boxes

Posted

Deidra Bates believes that if every neighborhood had a food pantry box, nobody would go hungry.

So, about a year ago, she set up such a box outside of her southwest Denver home, near South Federal Boulevard and West Exposition Avenue, where she has lived for the past nine years. Bates fills the box with basic necessities such as flour and sugar and other nonperishable items, such as canned goods and pastas.

“It’s just to get the general public fed. I’d rather see the food go to a family that needs it rather than it sitting on a shelf gathering dust,” said Bates, who with her husband is raising five children ranging in age from 6 to 18. “My family and I saw a need in our community, so we put up a box.”

Shortly after that box was set up, her dad, Jake Burkhardt, and his late wife, Sheila Lymm, recognized a similar need in their Wheat Ridge neighborhood. Lymm passed away last August, but Burkhardt followed through with their idea about six months ago. In a spinoff from his daughter’s concept, Burkhardt wanted to gear his box toward the seniors he often sees enjoying Founders’ Park on Jay Street.

“This has been a quiet neighborhood for years,” said Burkhardt, who has lived in his home since 1955 when his parents bought the house and raised him in it. But Founders’ Park is a “popular park.”

In the vicinity is the Seniors’ Resource Center, Wheat Ridge’s Active Adult Center and a couple nursing homes, Burkhardt said, so it attracts a lot of seniors. The park has gentle walking paths and nice benches, but no playground — there’s a different nearby park for children, Burkhardt said.

“I like that it caters to seniors,” he said.

Burkhardt built both his box and his daughter’s, sized appropriately for the food each box carries. Burkhardt stocks his box with nuts, healthy energy bars and dried fruits, but he is open to suggestions.

“I’m just starting out with it,” he said. “I’d like to know what the people around here would like.”

Burkhardt’s snack box is located directly across Jay Street from Founders’ Park. Anybody who would like to leave a snack suggestion may do so by leaving a note in the box, Burkhardt said.

The food for both Bates’ food pantry box and Burkhardt’s snack box comes from Joy’s Kitchen, a nonprofit food pantry based in Lakewood. Joy’s Kitchen receives its food through the Food Bank of the Rockies. Bates is the volunteer assistant director for Joy’s Kitchen and has been involved with the organization for about a year and a half.

Bates’ box operates on a give-and-take method, and it’s quite popular, she said, adding that she has to restock it about once a week. Burkhardt’s box has not gained that traction yet. He sees people coming and taking snacks periodically, but only has two regulars so far — one is the mailman and the other is a woman who frequently visits the park but has not made contact with Burkhardt yet.

“This is not a new idea,” Bates said. She referred to the Little Free Libraries, where people freely give and take books from stands set up like the snack boxes, and the Blessing Boxes, mini-food pantries like Bates’.

Although they do not have any immediate plans to set up boxes in other communities, father and daughter would like to see others pick up on the idea and put boxes in their neighborhoods.

“We don’t always know what our neighbors are going through,” Bates said. “This is a way to reach out and give — and in return, accept help from the community.”

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