Metro Ministries’ mobile food bank rolls into low-income neighborhoods

There are dozens of food trucks that ply the streets of metro Denver, but very few of them give away their goods for free.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, a line of people snaked through a shaded area outside the Juanita Nolasco apartment complex. The crowd waited patiently. The energy shifted as a truck rolled into the parking lot, large letters on the sides simply reading: “Mobile Food Bank.”

John Gallegos Jr. and other volunteers of Metro Ministries stepped out of the truck and began setting up portable tables — one so dilapidated that Gallegos Jr. said people have asked him to throw it out. No way, he tells them — the table represents too much.

“There’s been over $2 million worth of food (placed) on top of that table,” Gallegos Jr., a pastor at Metro Ministries, said . “Just a little table like that can touch so many lives.”

The truck is filled with meats, fruits, vegetables, milk, ice cream and other items from organizations like the Food Bank of the Rockies and Grocery Rescue. Metro Ministries pays Food Bank of the Rockies 10 cents per pound for food. It receives groceries from King Soopers through Grocery Rescue, a program started by a nonprofit called Food LifeLine that redirects grocery store items identified as edible but unmarketable to organizations that combat hunger.

Those standing in line pick up grocery bags and “shop” for food as if they are in a grocery store. Except there’s no check out, the food is free. Sometimes people walk away with bags filled with the equivalent of $40 to $60 of food, Gallegos Jr. said.

“The food is excellent … When they deliver, that is very special and we appreciate it,” said Louis Durisseau, who has lived at Juanita Nolasco for 17 years.
The Mobile Food Bank regularly makes mo

re than 20 stops in low-income neighborhoods across Denver, assisting seniors and disabled residents on fixed incomes and the working poor. On Thursdays, students at Swansea Elementary School can take home bags that often contain the only food they’ll eat over the weekend.

“I’ve never known what it is to be hungry. I grew up always having enough. My kids grew up having enough,” said Bob Van Wyck, Metro Ministries’ development director and associate pastor. “These kids are the same kids as all the rich kids, they’re just hungry.”

Metro Ministries has distributed 130,000 pounds of food so far this year. Gallegos Jr. estimates the program feeds about 1,000 people per week, and he has greater ambitions for the future. The ministry is raising money to buy another truck so the program can feed more people.

“I love my job. Coming to these communities is pretty amazing,” Gallegos Jr. said. “It’s been amazing to watch this process.”

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