Lift-Up expands its mission to feed the region’s hungry |

Lift-Up expands its mission to feed the region’s hungry

People fill the Hotel Jerome ballroom Tuesday evening for the 8th Annual Aspen T.R.E.E. Community Meal


Some Thanksgiving gatherings in Aspen are about community rather than the strict definition of need.

The Hickory House is hosting its annual Thanksgiving Day feast for anyone who wants to share a meal, regardless of economic status.

“Everyone you meet is excited to come,” said Bryan Barker, manager of the restaurant.

The Hickory House staff will roast 55 to 60 turkeys and cook 250 pounds of beef roast along with mounds of potatoes and dressing, and gallons of gravy.

“You can’t even walk in the kitchen right now,” Barker said Tuesday morning.

The Hickory House gets an assist from Main Street Bakery, Paradise Bakery, Aspen Caterers, U.S. Foods and its linen service.

More than 1,000 people come to share the meal. For some diners, it’s their first Thanksgiving away from home. For others, it’s an opportunity share the special day with others. Everybody is welcome. A cash donation is requested at the door. Proceeds will benefit Ascendigo, which works with people on the autism spectrum.

The doors at the Hickory House will open at noon Thursday.

Aspen T.R.E.E., an Aspen nonprofit that promotes food sustainability and education about agriculture, held its highly successful annual farm-to-table dinner Tuesday night at the Hotel Jerome. It’s another prime example of communal gathering at a special time.

About 970 families from Aspen to Parachute are giving special thanks this week to Lift-Up, the nonprofit that battles hunger in the region.

The 970 families signed up in October for Lift-Up’s holiday food-distribution program. The Thanksgiving food baskets were distributed in Aspen on Monday and in other locations over the weekend. The same families will receive food for Christmas.

Last year, about 850 families signed up for the holiday food baskets, according to Kimberly Loving, executive director of Lift-Up. The increase was hard to explain.

“We don’t ask a lot of questions,” she said. The organization’s focus is getting food to the hungry, not determining why they are facing hardship, she said.

A change in Lift-Up’s food distribution policy in 2015 brought a surge in the number of people it helped this year, Loving said.

In the past, Lift-Up’s seven pantries would distribute food to families or individuals four times during a calendar year. But in 2015, its staff and volunteers in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Rifle and Parachute determined that wasn’t enough for some clients.

“People are needing more and more services,” Loving said. Lift-Up altered its policy to allow clients to come once per month to pick up enough food to last up to one week.

Lift-Up provided food for 26,380 people through September, according to its website. Last year, it assisted 14,061 clients through September 2014, according to numbers provided last November 2014 to The Aspen Times.

In addition, Lift-Up helped provide 14,423 hot meals through Extended Table at two locations through September this year.

Even though the economy is improving, Loving said the Lift-Up crew has heard anecdotally that wages are stagnant for many employees. Housing prices are soaring, so people may be having trouble making ends meet. That could explain the need for additional food.

In addition, Congress scaled back funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That reduced some people’s ability to acquire food.

Lift-Up also made a commitment last year to start providing healthier food. It distributed 8,600 pounds of vegetables and some fruit in 2014. This year it has given away more than 20,000 pounds of produce, Loving said. An organic grower in Rifle called Eagle Springs has donated 16,000 pounds of food to Lift-Up on its own, Loving said.

Lift-Up can always use help on the supply side of the equation. The organization is participating in Colorado Gives Day, which promotes online philanthropy. Donations made online Dec. 8 will make Lift-Up eligible for a portion of a $1 million incentive fund available for nonprofits in the state.

In addition, Lift-Up needs to restock its supplies before handing out Christmas food baskets. Lift-Up’s holiday food drive list can be found at

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