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Small Nonprofit, Food for Thought Denver Receives Community Award

The Denver Metro Chamber named Food for Thought its Small Nonprofit of the Year, followed by finalists CBCA and Economic Literacy Colorado


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WINNER

FOOD FOR THOUGHT DENVER

Food for Thought's mission is this:

Ensure that no child in Denver Public Schools goes without food over the weekend.

The organization runs entirely on donated time, money and resources.

Though it may seem simple, the small nonprofit, which got its start in 2012, sets its sights on 35,000 students in the metro area, targeting schools in which 90 percent or more of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch programs – where a family of four's income is less than $29,000 annually. According to Hunger Free Colorado, nearly one in six Colorado kids routinely faces hunger.

Headquarters is under the Colfax viaduct thanks to a partnership with Metropolitan State University of Denver that donates on-campus space and student volunteers. Fridays around 6 a.m. throughout the school year, dozens of volunteers run efficient assembly lines to package food and sort it onto a fleet of donated delivery trucks.  The $4 "power sacks" – bundles of nearly 15 items of nonperishable food – are for school children to take home for the weekend.

In the past, weekend meals were few and far between for many of these kids, according to Bob Bell, a Denver-area real estate broker who started Food For Thought with friend John Thielen "This just helps them with some stability not only in their house, but in their pantry," Bell says.

Thanks to a strong partnership with Food Bank for the Rockies, the food is all donated. Meanwhile, the entire operation is volunteer-run. Food for Thought's support and initial funding came from the Arvada Sunrise Rotary Club Foundation.

“We put a bag for every kid. So, when we go to a school, it’s not picking and choosing amongst what kids need it and what kids don’t,” Bell said. “What we’re not about is stigmatizing a child.”

To date, Food for Thought has delivered more than 250,000 tons of food, growing its reach from 500 kids to start to more than 8,000. Once the organization takes on a school, there is a strict policy not to back out.

"This is my heart," Bell says. He hopes to double Food for Thought's current reach and efforts by 2020. "Don't let these kids down."


FINALISTS

COLORADO BUSINESS COMMITTEE FOR THE ARTS (CBCA)

Inspired by David Rockefeller's national Business Committee for the Arts, Denver developer John Madden Jr. established a collection of Colorado business leaders who believed in the corporate social responsibility of support the arts back in 1985. CBCA works to advance Colorado's creative economy by "forging inspiring partnerships between business and the arts," according to Christin Crampton Day, executive director of CBCA.

Today, CBCA has more than 170 members. 

The small nonprofit engages in year-round advocacy, research, training and arts engagement efforts. Programming includes Leadership Arts, an innovative nine-month leadership training program that prepares people to serve on nonprofit boards and increase their civic engagement in the arts. Colorado Attorneys for the Arts (CAFTA) is a pro bono legal referral service connecting limited-income and creative entities to volunteer attorneys. 

A bi-annual economic activity study indicates the total impact of the arts in Colorado – $1.8 billion in capital and more than 11,000 jobs. 

Each year, more than 700 corporate, cultural and civic leaders celebrated 12 honorees at the 2018 CBCA Business for the Arts Awards. 

The organization's biggest challenge, according to Crampton Day is its "appetite is big," however the small staff requires that CBCA must rely on its board and membership to execute on ambitious ideas.


ECONOMIC LITERACY COLORADO

Economic Literacy Colorado imagines a world in which Colorado students can understand the fundamental decision-making skills needed to realize their full potential. Since its founding in 1971, the small nonprofit has been training K-12 teachers how to integrate principals of economics and personal financial literacy into their classroom curricula. 

Teachers are offered year-round university-accredited professional development in economics and personal financial education. In addition, classroom resources and in-service presentations are available for teachers, schools and districts. Every year, more than 1,000 Colorado teachers who participate in these classes educate more than 100,000 students."

Economic Literacy Colorado also provides a 10-week stock market experience investment simulation program for 3d through 12th graders, and online personal finance programming for elementary teachers.

2018 Business Awards - Small Nonprofit Organization of the Year Finalists from Denver Metro Chamber on Vimeo.

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Gigi Sukin

Gigi Sukin is digital editor at ColoradoBiz. She can be reached at gsukin@cobizmag.com.

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