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Culturally responsive food initiative launched by Food Bank of the Rockies

The food bank said it surveyed community members to cultivate lists of food items they would want and need.

DENVER — In an effort to better serve their clients, the Food Bank of the Rockies said it expanded a pilot program intended to diversify food options for all cultural backgrounds. 

"Our culturally responsive food initiative came about by listening to the clients," said Erin Pulling, CEO of the food bank. "We heard things like they were wanting corn husks and masa flour to make tamales, and Food Bank of the Rockies realizes that we are an expert in food sourcing. We are already purchasing 20% of our food supply, so why not customize that food to the clients we're serving." 

Pulling and her team responded by creating the Culturally Responsive Food Initiative. The team reached out to the diverse communities they serve to ask members what it was they wanted and provided it. 

"Latin American communities, Ethiopians, Somali, Vietnamese, Russian and we've catered food lists to each of those populations," Pulling explained. 

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The organization also reached out to Native American communities and worked with the Food Bank of Wyoming to create a culturally appropriate food list. 

Jacqueline White, a member of the Wind River reservation and a tribal relations specialist for Food Bank of Wyoming, helped the food bank survey tribal members to cultivate a list of foods they would want and need.

"That food is so sacred to us because in every single one of our ceremonies, we utilize that food," White said. "They really did something great for our people here, they really did."

The program is now available in all 53 counties the Food Bank of the Rockies serve. They've created food lists for seven different cultures and are looking to expand. They are also rolling out more culturally responsive mobile pantries for rural communities. 

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