Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and for thousands of people across North Denver that means gathering with family and friends to celebrate and stuff themselves with food. But for many, this joyous holiday meal is not so simple to put together.
North Denver faces its own set of issues involving food insecurity, making the need for outside aid greater than ever this year. Greg Pratt is the executive director of Bienvenidos Food Bank. Bienvenidos Food Bank has been a part of the North Denver area for over 45 years, and has helped thousands of people experience the joys of a full stomach.
Food banks like Bienvenidos are the heart of the North Denver community. Without specialty services like these offered throughout the neighborhoods, thousands of people would go without the joys of a Thanksgiving tradition and a delicious meal. “This is the time of year when people really need food and many family traditions are surrounding food,” Greg explains.
“We know that a lot of people will come and say they’ve been invited to someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner and they’re so excited to be able to come and get something to bring to that meal. Even if it’s as simple as bringing the cranberry sauce or the fixings to make a pumpkin pie or the potatoes to make the mashed potatoes. It’s exciting to see that people can leave here with these kinds of opportunities.”
Beginning in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic altered our world in more ways than we ever thought possible. All around North Denver food banks, homeless shelters and other outreach programs struggled to keep their welcoming doors open to the public. Bienviendos faced its own challenges, losing mass amounts of volunteers and food donations due to the pandemic, making everyday operations extremely difficult. But through it all, they persisted and with the help of the North Denver community and some strategic planning they continued to provide food to those struggling more than ever.
Greg offers that it is the sense of being able to contribute, both for the organization and the individuals involved, that is the true joy that a Thanksgiving meal can bring to an individual. Without these organizations, thousands of people throughout North Denver would never have the chance to experience the normalcy of holiday tradition.
In small communities, helping your neighbors is second nature, which is exactly what Bienvenidos Food Bank does around the clock. “While people always think about food banks during the holidays, we are here to remember that people are hungry all year long. Our main goal is to be a food pantry that can be here for all the other weeks of the year,” says Greg. As Greg explains, people tend to overlook the importance of keeping food banks stocked all year long. Around the holidays, organizations all over North Denver run special events to collect extra food and cash donations in order to help people in need at a hard time.
What Bienvenidos wants everyone to remember is that their services are available to anyone at any time. It is not specific to a certain time of year, instead they dedicate themselves to around the clock service. Food banks and other organizations like this create the sense of community that North Denver needs in order to thrive, especially in times of uncertainty. Without these services, the joys of the holidays, along with maintaining a sense of security throughout the year, would not be possible for many people. Bienvenidos Food Bank is open most Thursdays at 3801 Pecos Street in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Denver.