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Colorado Group Creates 'Blueprint' To Close Hunger Gap

By Joel Hillan

DENVER (CBS4) - A group of government and nonprofit organizations across Colorado are coming together for some of Colorado's most vulnerable.

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Wednesday the Colorado Health Foundation announced what they called the Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one in six Colorado kids are hungry, and overall about one in 10 Coloradans struggle with having the necessary money to buy needed food.

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In 2016, government assistance programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- also known as SNAP -- and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children -- known as WIC -- poured $1.3 billion in economic development into the Colorado economy.

But only six in 10 of those eligible participated in these programs, leaving $455 million of available federal money on the table.

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"We are ranked pretty low across the nation in terms of the eligible but not enrolled, so these are really easy wins for us as a state to work on," said Ki'i Powell, Director of the Office of Economic Security.

This includes some 100,000 Coloradans who are eligible, but not enrolled in the WIC program… ranking Colorado 48th in the nation for enrollment.

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But Powell says enrollment in these programs alone is not enough.

"In many of the instances the people on SNAP are often working in low-income jobs, and even with SNAP assistance which equates to about $1.25 a meal per person, they have to supplement that with food bank resources," she said.

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Food for Though nonprofit (credit: CBS)

Organizations like Food for Thought also help. Founded by Bob Bell, the nonprofit organization serves 18 schools, delivering bags of food to 5,600 Denver students each Friday, helping fill the weekend hunger gap for kids.

Gov. John Hickenlooper cautioned that although Colorado has made progress in taking care of the state's hungry, the fact that one in six children in the state is food insecure betrays that progress.

He is hopeful the collaboration of governmental organizations, private partners and nonprofits brought together for this effort will get the job done.

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A sentiment Powell echoes, "What a great time for us. We know that hunger is a solvable issue, and, with a real good collaboration, we can better educate one another about the programs, we can reduce duplication and leverage all of the resources and just more innovatively solve this problem altogether."

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The Colorado Health Foundation and partners have a goal of signing up 8,000 eligible families to the SNAP program this year, one year of a five-year plan.

Joel Hillan anchors CBS4 This Morning on weekends as well as reports stories for CBS4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. Follow Joel on Twitter @joelhillan.

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