Food Bank partners with Colorado Pet Pantry
BY SHELLEY W IDHALM FOR THE REPORTER-HERALD
The fourth Saturday of the month, the Food Bank for Larimer County places importance on cats and dogs.
Colorado Pet Pantry sets up a tent for two hours outside the Loveland Food Share building, 2600 N. Lincoln Ave., to hand out pet food and supplies to clients of the food bank and others needing the help.
“Our goals are definitely aligned. … Whether you’re talking about food for families or food for pets, we want to make it easier for families to manage day to day,” said Paul Donnelly, communications director for the Food Bank for Larimer County, which has food pantries in Loveland and Fort Collins. “We don’t want people making a choice between getting food or medicine.”
In February, the Food Bank for Larimer County partnered with Colorado Pet Pantry, and since then, the pet pantry has served an average of 85 to 95 families per month. As of June, 360 families signed up for services for 875 pets, including 499 dogs and 376 cats.
Families can receive wet and dry pet food, treats, toys and other supplies for up to four animals.
They can stop in every other month to receive enough for 30 days and once they register cannot add any new cats or dogs.
“Everybody has leftover food from their animals for whatever reason. We want to stop that food from going into the landfills,” said Eileen Lambert, executive director of the Colorado Pet Pantry.
PET PANTRY’S OUTREACH
Colorado Pet Pantry, a Boulder- based nonprofit founded in 2013, is a food bank for family pets with 36 monthly pet food distribution points throughout the state that include partnerships with human food banks. Sixteen of the distribution points are open to the public and another 20 are mini-pet food banks, partnered with organizations serving the pantry’s target audience.
The partnership with the Food Bank for Larimer County allows the pet pantry to expand its outreach north of Longmont.
By partnering with food banks, the pet pantry can leverage clients who already are vetted and help reduce administrative work, as stated on its website, coloradopetpantry.org. Clients of the pet pantry register during their first visit so they are in the system each time they
Ginny Perrine of Berthoud, left, explains her need to feed her two dogs and four cats to Kelly Germolus, lead volunteer for the Colorado Pet Pantry, during a pet food bank set up July 27 at the Loveland Food Share site.
PHOTOS BY SHELLEY WIDHALM / For the Loveland Reporter-Herald
Colorado Pet Pantry volunteer Mike Collins grabs a large bag of dog food July 27 to give to a client of the pet food pantry at a distribution point at the Loveland Food Share site.
stop by and then check in for each subsequent visit. They do not have to meet any income qualifications to receive services.
Food Bank for Larimer County clients also register but must qualify based on the Department of Agriculture’s guidelines for food insecurity — a household of one, for example, can make a gross monthly income of up to $2,081.
“They do not have to be a member of the Loveland food bank. They can still come to us,” Lambert said. “If someone says, ‘Hey, I need help,’ we want to help them.”
PET PANTRY’S NUMBERS
In 2018, the pet pantry helped nearly 39,000 pets at 25 distribution points with 376,650 pounds of kibble and another 49,460 cans of wet food, providing 2.3 million meals. This year, the nonprofit aims to increase the number of pets served to 60,000 and expand its distribution points to 40.
At the Loveland site, the pet pantry distributed more than 7,690 pounds of kibble and 1,775 cans of pet food through June.
The line July 27 was several dozen people deep and remained consistently busy with six volunteers helping distribute pet food and supplies.
“This is the longest we have seen it. It just grows every month,” said Kelly Germolus, lead volunteer for the Loveland site. “The need gets bigger and bigger.”
Ginny Perrine of Berthoud came to the pantry for the first time in July after learning about it from the Department of Human Services. As a senior on a fixed income, she finds it hard to afford pet food for her two dogs and four cats and found herself giving food she received from the food bank to her pets.
“It’s going to be a really big help,” Perrine said.
Dee McMullin of Loveland, also a first-time visitor in July, has a dog and a cat that she needs to feed on a fixed income.
“Pets are very important for anybody and especially the senior citizens, because sometimes that’s all they have,” McMullin said. “I don’t have any people. I only have animals. Keeping them fed and, on a tight income, it’s very hard to buy food, so they’re the ones that suffer.”
Kaela Smith of Loveland has two dogs, plus two children, to feed after a layoff.
“It’s a good thing to have because when you’re hurting for money, taking care of your pets is just like taking care of your children. You have to do what you have to do to make sure they’re taken care of,” Smith said. “If that handout is available there, it makes life easier for all of those who are struggling.”
Lambert doesn’t want to see families lose a pet because they are going through a financial hardship, such as a job loss or medical issue.
“If I was going through a financial hardship, I wouldn’t want to lose my pet,” Lambert said. “That’s when I need my pet the most. We want people to keep their pets for the longterm.”
Pets also benefit from the service, because they are kept with their families and out of the shelters, Lambert said.
“Pets like consistency, and they love their families, so it’s almost always better for the pet to stay with their family unless the family is not the right place for the pet,” Lambert said. “For many people we serve, having a family pet is a strong connection socially and to lose that is pretty devastating.”
HELPING PET OWNERS
Without something like the pet pantry, pet owners may give some of the food they receive from a food bank or other resource to their pets, Lambert said, adding that they cannot use food stamps for pet food.
“If we weren’t there, people would be giving their food to their animals,” Lambert said. “It’s not good for the animals, and it’s not good for families because it’s less food on their plates.”
To get the food where it’s needed, pet pantry volunteers help distribute it in Loveland Food Share’s parking lot, even during the colder months, since there is not enough space inside the building, Donnelly said.
“We really don’t have the space,” Donnelly said. “We’ve got a really large warehouse and shopping space for our facility but not much space for dog food and a secure check-in.”
Clients can visit the pet pantry before or after they visit the Food Bank, where they check-in and shop grocery- store style up to two times a week, using shopping carts to pick up fresh produce, milk and other dairy products, bread, meat and desserts.
Like the pet pantry, the Food Bank for Larimer County serves as a supplementary food source, Donnelly said. “It’s like the food bank model, providing what’s on hand, driven by the donations received,” Donnelly said. “We provide food for as many people as we can. We can fill in the gaps, but we’re not their only food source.”
TAKING IN DONATIONS
The pet pantry partners with pet food stores and suppliers, veterinary clinics and other resources for food drop-off points, as well as humane societies, animal shelters, and spay and neuter services to help with emergency needs for pet owners.
In Loveland, donations to the pet pantry can be dropped off at Barnyard Vet & Pet Supply, Blue Sky Animal Clinic, Bomgaars, Cosmic Dog, Doggie Dips & Chips, Jax Loveland Outdoor Gear, Ranch & Home, Petco and Westside Feed. Monetary donations can be given at the Pet Pantry or online at coloradopetpantry. org.
“We are a pass-through for them,” Donnelly said. “We don’t take any ownership for it. We are simply happy to provide an opportunity for the Colorado Pet Pantry to come out to our Lincoln Avenue site.”
Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell’s Ink Services, a writing and editing service based in Loveland. She has more than 15 years of experience in communications and holds a master’s degree in English from Colorado State University. She can be reached at shellsinkservices.com or shellsinkservices@ gmail.com.
Mary Wilkinson, volunteer with the Colorado Pet Pantry, left, raises her hand for the next person in line, while lead volunteer Kelly Germolus looks over paperwork during the monthly Colorado Pet Pantry pet food bank July 27 at the Loveland Food Share.
PHOTOS BY SHELLEY WIDHALM / For the Loveland Reporter-Herald
Kaela Smith of Loveland, left, tells Kelly Germolus, lead volunteer for the Colorado Pet Pantry, that she needs help feeding her two dogs during the monthly pet food bank July 27 at the Loveland Food Share site. Behind her is her sister Chelsea Severns, also of Loveland.
Cans and bags of dog and cat food is ready for distribution July 27 through a partnership between the Food Bank for Larimer County and Colorado Pet Pantry.