In the U.S., more than one in six children don’t have consistent access to nutritious food – that’s about 13.1 million kids under the age of 18. And in Colorado, one in five kids don’t always know when or where they’ll get their next meal.
We know that food – and access to it – can make an impact on your health, your paycheck and your success.
We sat down with Kathy Underhill, CEO of Hunger Free Colorado, to learn how they are working to make sure every Coloradan has access to a healthy and nutritious meal.
Taking Care of Business: Tell me briefly about the work of Hunger Free Colorado and how the organization got started?
Kathy Underhill: Hunger Free Colorado is a statewide nonprofit organization that connects families and individuals to food resources and fuels change in systems, policies and social views, so no Coloradan goes hungry.
We launched in 2009 from a merger of two nonprofit organizations to bring a more a unified, statewide voice to the issue and solutions surrounding hunger.
TCB: How does access to healthy food impact the success of an individual?
KU: Access to affordable, nutritious food supports the foundation for optimal health and well-being throughout our lives. The consumption of healthy food boosts the development of babies’ brains and bodies, fuels children with the energy needed to excel in and out of school, reduces the risk of chronic diseases in adults and keeps seniors stable and independent. Lack of sufficient food does exactly the opposite—stunting growth, hindering education, swallowing motivation, slowing productivity and deteriorating one’s health across the lifespan.
TCB: What are some of the factors that hinder Coloradans from being able to access healthy food?
KU: It is estimated that nearly one in eight Coloradans face times where there is not enough money to buy food, and this could be due to a job loss, low wages, health issues or another misfortune. Those on a tight budget often have to choose between paying rent or buying needed medications instead of purchasing groceries.
TCB: As the state’s leading anti-hunger organization, how does Hunger Free Colorado leverage collaboration to ensure Coloradans are healthy?
KU: Collaboration is essential if we want to remove roadblocks and increase access to nutritious food, so all residents and communities can prosper. We know when people work together and rally behind a shared vision, positive changes are possible and can have lasting impacts that support the health and well-being of our residents and the state of Colorado.
TCB: What can the business community do to help ensure Coloradans have sufficient access to nutritious, affordable food?
KU: Those in the business community can support Hunger Free Colorado’s innovative work in many ways. Sponsoring our annual fundraising and awareness event, Hike for Hunger; making a financial investment to broaden the impact of programs and initiatives like our statewide food resource hotline; and actively participating in coalitions and councils that aim to boost food access and economic growth.
TCB: Why do you love doing business in Colorado?
KU: Colorado’s ‘can do’ spirit is what makes doing business here like no other place. When we first started seven years ago, Colorado ranked in the bottom 10 nationally for participation in every single federal nutrition program, and at the same time, we had the fastest growing rate of child poverty. Once our community became aware and understood the issues, folks jumped in to solve the problem. The willingness and selflessness of others makes Colorado unique. And, on a lighter note: while we work hard together, we also play hard!
Laura James is the marketing and communications coordinator for the Denver Metro Chamber.