PENROSE, Colo. — The lone food bank in Penrose is at risk of closing down because the building in which it operates is for sale, with a deadline of January 1 for the organization to buy the facility or move somewhere else.
My Neighbor’s Cupboard first opened in May 2018 after its founder and CEO, Amanda Suddoth, moved to the town. She had been operating a food assistance program since 2013 in Black Forest to help people struggling in the aftermath of what was, at the time, one of Colorado’s most destructive forest fires.
“When we first came up here it was very evident, after working with a couple other organizations, that there wasn’t that kind of support out here for a very large population,” Suddoth said.
The nearest food banks or food pantries to Penrose are a highway’s drive away—too far, Suddoth said, for the seniors, veterans, and many working families that she is able to feed from her building.
If someone is to come to the cupboard, she only requests they are a senior, veteran, or are employed. Because she doesn’t take people’s income and personal information, she’s not able to get money from the state and federal governments. She just trusts that people are coming to her in a time of need.
“We remove those burdens. We don’t ask about your financials because, quite frankly, it’s not my business. What I need to know is are you hungry,” she said.
Amanda Suddoth explains how she hopes to provide a different kind of food assistance:
My Neighbor’s Cupboard has been recognized by Care and Share food bank as a “Community Champion” because it “is a critical ally in the fight against hunger in Southern Colorado.”
Suddoth’s intention for keeping information private and creating a low barrier for people to receive food is removing the stigma, and often times humiliation, she sees people come with when they are in a position of needing help.
There have been a lot more of those folks show up in her building after the pandemic began.
“We’ve met a lot of new neighbors. A lot of new neighbors and I tell you what, we still get to know each and every one of them.” Suddoth said.
So far this year, the organization has given out 1.2 million pounds of food to over 33,000 people–a four-fold increase from 2019.
Ways to donate to My Neighbor’s Cupboard:
- Text “Cupboard” to 22828 and follow the instructions
- Head to the organization’s website
In addition to the building (which stores thousands of pounds of food), Suddoth holds massive drive-up food pickup events in other small and secluded towns where food assistance is rare. Westcliffe and Cotapaxi are two of those towns.
Her most recent drive-up event on November 21 had 200 cars in line before they began to give out food. They donated food from 7 a.m. to after 5 p.m. that day.
The financial stress that’s impacted the people Suddoth has been helping ultimately has affected the people helping her.
Informally, she and her volunteers started providing food for people in need in 2015 in Penrose and moved to the building at 409 Broadway in 2018. The owners donated Suddoth a six-month lease. That had been extended for a while, until Suddoth got an email this fall.
“At the same time the pandemic hit all of us, it hit them too, and they need to have their finances returned to them so that they can take care of their medical bills and survival as well,” she said. “They’ve never asked us for anything but they’ve always been kind enough to give us this space.”
She’s hoping to raise $120,000 in order to buy the building outright to continue providing people the food they need. Her due date is January 1, and she says because the organization doesn’t take federal or state funding, a mortgage is not feasible for the Cupboard to operate.
Suddoth has always asked for food donations, never asking for money.
“We need help, guys. I don’t like reaching out and asking but, I’m asking on behalf of 33,000 people that won’t have this resource come January,” she said.