During the first few months of the pandemic, millions of Americans lost their jobs and were reeling from a total loss of income. Those who call Mercy Housing home were no exception. In fact, many Mercy Housing residents are some of the most vulnerable to the effects of these unprecedented times.
But through the darkness, and with the help of our amazing partners and many inspiring people, Mercy Housing communities rallied together to combat this crisis head-on to ensure people have access to enough food.
Born from the prolific need posed by the pandemic to help feed people in need throughout the Denver Metro area, the Denver Metro Emergency Food Network, is truly that; a coalition of five founding organizations (Bondadosa, Denver Food Rescue, Focus Points Family Resource Center, Friends & Family, and Lost City Denver) with the backing of hundreds of supporting partners. From restaurants and volunteers to donors and delivery drivers – they are making a difference every day and providing free meals to people in need, including many Mercy Housing residents. >>
When Keara and her husband opened their coffee house, Lost City, at the Taxi complex in Denver’s RiNo (River North) neighborhood in October 2019 and then the second one in January 2020 at First Baptist Church of Denver, they could not have imagined the trajectory their business would take. From the beginning, Lost City’s mission was focused on social good, and the coffee shop was designed to help support immigrant and refugee populations through mentorship and job skills training.
“From the start, the reason we wanted to get involved in the coffee shop was to do social good. We then asked ourselves, how can we use these coffee shops to help people in greater need during this time,” said Keara.
As part of the Denver Metro Emergency Food Networks founding team, Lost City soon became the catalyst for something even bigger. The coffee shop quickly transformed into the headquarters for the Food Network and its mission expanded to help seniors, families, and people in need with no-cost meals.
Initially, meals were solely prepared in the Lost City kitchen until Keara connected with the Colorado Restaurant Response group. This coalition of local restaurants committed to preparing thousands of meals per week and helped the Denver Metro Emergency Food Network scale up to meet the growing need within the city.
The need grew exponentially from a few hundred meals during their first week of service in March, to a thousand meals the following week. At its peak in April 2020, they were preparing and delivering roughly 32,000 meals per week around Denver. Mercy Housing’s Aromor Apartments received meal delivery three times per week over the first several months of the pandemic to help support all 66 residents that call it home.
Manley, Healthcare Specialist at the Aromor, has witnessed first-hand the impact these meals have had on the residents.
“The residents loved the food and looked forward to the meal deliveries each week. Many have expressed how much this service helped them get by in this time of crisis,” said Manley.
What does the future hold for the Denver Metro Emergency Food Network and Lost City? In the short term, Denver Metro Emergency Food Network plans to continue meal service through the summer and estimates that they’ll prepare up to 10,000 meals per week. They anticipate an increase this fall and are taking steps now to get ready.
Lost City is gearing up to host a weekly pay-what-you-can farmer’s market early this summer. Additionally, Keara plans to utilize their newly expanded RiNo location with additional outdoor seating and a stage to host a relief concert series. The series will benefit local musicians who have also been severely impacted by the recent health crisis.
It takes amazing ingenuity to create such a powerful network in just a few short days. Thank you to the Denver Metro Emergency Food Network and Lost City for being a force of good in our community and providing much-needed support to Mercy Housing residents.