Giving Thought: Meeting the increased demand for food access through innovation

Allison Alexander
Giving Thought
Allison Alexander is the Director Strategic Partnerships and Communication at Aspen Community Foundation. ACF with the support of its donors works with a number of nonprofits in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys. Throughout the year, we will work to highlight nonprofits in the region.
Allison Alexander/Courtesy photo

Since 2020, we have seen costs rise across the country. And while wages have increased since the start of the pandemic, they have lagged behind what is actually needed to cover household expenses. While this is true across the country, it is more exaggerated in our region. 

Adding to this challenge, the housing shortage has increased housing costs, forcing many families to make difficult decisions between covering bills and feeding their families. Stakeholders continue to explore housing solutions to support the sustainability of life in our region. However, as each day passes, families still need to eat, and a growing number of residents are turning to non-profits for meals and support filling their pantries.  

For more than 40 years, LIFT-UP has served as a leader in providing equitable food access and has worked to end hunger in the Aspen-to-Parachute corridor. Prior to COVID, the organization’s business model did not have a need to shift much, but according to Ivan Jackson, executive director of LIFT-UP, “COVID changed everything, and needs continue to grow as living expenses continue to rise.” 

Food prices have risen by 12% over the last 18 months according to him. In 2022, LIFT-UP served 48,914 individuals at its fixed pantries and mobile distributions. As of July 31, this year, it has already served almost 55,000 individuals.  

Realizing that hunger is a complex issue, LIFT-UP has continued to lean into an entrepreneurial and innovative mindset. It has spent the last several years seeking sustainable solutions that address the numerous complexities created by our region’s unique geography and economic ecosystem. While exploring solutions, they have strengthened collaborations with other stakeholders, including larger organizations like Food Bank of the Rockies and smaller non-profits like Harvest for Hunger. Additionally, they now source over 66,000 pounds annually of fresh, healthy, and nutritious food from 32 local community farmers and ranchers, through their Farm 2 Food Pantry Program. 

As a part of their long-term systemic focused solution, LIFT-UP has embarked on a $2 million capital campaign to secure the purchase and renovation of an 11,000-square-foot, multi-use warehouse in Glenwood Springs, the geographic center of its service area.  

The building seeks to support the community in multiple ways, while simultaneously reducing some of the burdens placed on organizations serving the community. Its central location will reduce travel time and expense. Having a storage facility in Glenwood Springs, in addition to their current spaces in Rifle and Parachute, is expected to reduce staff and fleet expenses by half, allowing resources to be redirected into essential programs.  

Jackson shared another benefit of the new facility: The design of a new, fixed pantry, which is intended to be more welcoming and provide guests who enter the space with a sense of dignity and reduce stigma. The space will have the feeling of a more traditional grocery store. 

Part of the work of LIFT-UP is reducing the stigma around food insecurity. He shared that as the numbers of guests continue to grow, the types of guests they serve has shifted and expanded from what might have been typical pre-pandemic.

“Increasingly, we are seeing guests from two income households and working professionals, as well as seniors, access our services. The range of people we are seeing has grown,” he says.  

Hunger has been shown to impact educational outcomes, as it is nearly impossible to learn while hungry. As the number of students living with food insecurity continues to grow, so does the demand for programs that directly reach students. Currently, LIFT-UP partners with the public schools in Garfield County to provide sack lunches for children under 18 with its “Meal Monkey” program. The new facility will allow them to partner with the Food Bank of the Rockies “Totes of Hope” program, which offers food for students to take home over the weekend to feed their families.  

Everyone in our region knows that aligned location and space opportunities are rare. The warehouse space presented in Glenwood Springs has perhaps unmatched potential for LIFT-UP to dramatically shift the landscape of food access in our region.  

Through collaboration, innovation, and a long history in our region of supporting individuals and families in need, LIFT-UP is well-positioned to shift the lived experiences of those facing food insecurity as we adjust to a “post-pandemic” reality.   

To learn more about supporting LIFT-UP’s campaign, please visit: or contact: Ivan Jackson at  

Allison Alexander is the Director Strategic Partnerships and Communication at Aspen Community Foundation. ACF with the support of its donors works with a number of non-profits in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys. Throughout the year, we will work to highlight non-profits in the region.