DENVER — On the fourth Thursday of every month, Jim Scharper parks a cargo truck at the intersection of 21st and Stout in downtown Denver.
The truck is packed to the brim with essential items, from toilet paper to dog food to non-perishable food items and even clothes. Scores of people, many of them low-income and housing-insecure, line up to pick up some necessary items, which are all free of charge.
“I know firsthand just how hard it is to find food out here on the streets,” Scharper said. About 13 years ago, Scharper was in a similar situation as many of the people he currently serves. He was unhoused, living out of his truck, and struggling with addiction.
Once he got sober, he started making and distributing sandwiches on the fourth Thursday of the month. He has done that every month for 12 years, rain or shine.
Feeding Denver's Hungry on the streets
Once a month, this Denver nonprofits provides essential items to people on the street
Scharper operates the nonprofit Feeding Denver’s Hungry. Earlier this year, Scharper’s nonprofit opened a free grocery store in Denver, enabling Scharper to expand on his mission.
“From one day to the next, for a lot of people, is a challenge,” he explained at the time.
On Thursday, October 28, Rocky Mountain PBS met Scharper and a group of volunteers at 21st and Stout. One of the volunteers said that a lot of the people picking up food were also on food stamps. Feeding Denver’s Hungry purposefully distributes food at the end of the month to coincide with the time when many SNAP recipients start to run out of the monthly allotment.
According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, more than 255,000 Colorado households receive SNAP benefits in 2020. Nearly 40% of those households include children under the age of 18, and the average monthly allowance was just $343.
The COVID-19 pandemic made food insecurity worse. In the spring of 2021, Hunger Free Colorado, a statewide nonprofit organization which connects people to food resources, published a survey that found 33 percent of Coloradans are struggling with "food insecurity or lack of consistent, reliable access to nutritious, culturally relevant food."
William Evans said he comes to 21st and Stout every month. “[The program] just helps everybody out who is down and out, hard on their luck,” he said.
“It helps out a whole lot,” Evans continued. “It helps everybody … tremendously.”
According to Scharper, about 80 percent of the food comes from the Food Bank of the Rockies. The remaining 20 percent comes mostly from private donations. If you are interested in donating to Feeding Denver’s Hungry, or learning more about the organization, click here.
Feeding Denver’s Hungry will return to 21st and Stout on November 25, Thanksgiving Day.
Brian Willie is the content production manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.