U.S. Rep. Brittany Pettersen on Tuesday accompanied House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries during a visit to a family resource center in Broomfield, where they saw how the demand that charitable food organizations need to meet continues to grow.
Broomfield FISH — originally named Fellowship in Serving Humanity 60 years ago — distributes food to low-income residents of Broomfield County to help ensure their most basic needs are met. Jeffries, a New York Democrat, and Pettersen, a Lakewood Democrat, joined Broomfield FISH Executive Director Dayna Scott and other local officials on a tour of the facility Tuesday and helped sort donations.
Jeffries is visiting Colorado with fellow Congressional Democrats this week, stopping in Boulder for a gun violence roundtable with U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, and in Brighton for a town hall for seniors with U.S. Rep. Yadira Caraveo. Pettersen and Jeffries came to Broomfield FISH to stress the importance of Democratic efforts in Congress to protect federal food assistance programs such as SNAP.
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Scott said organizations like hers exist because too many people continue to go hungry and worry about having a roof over their heads. She said last year, Broomfield FISH served 1 in 7 county residents, offering not only access to food supplies, but also one-on-one mentoring and emergency financial assistance.
“We look at food as the key ingredient to get people here, because if you know that you don’t have food to put on the table for your children, you’re going to come get help — even if you are afraid to, even if you don’t want to, even if you’re embarrassed to,” Scott said. “We found that that is a missed opportunity if you are not also talking to people about any of their other needs.”
Scott said the federal support Broomfield FISH had throughout the pandemic helped the organization provide families with fresh, healthy produce as opposed to nonperishables, which she said could change with any funding cuts. She added that the cost of housing has been the biggest contributor to food insecurity in Broomfield, with most FISH participants spending 70% of their income on housing.
Jeffries said he and the Democratic caucus in Congress are committed to working against Republican efforts to continue cutting back federal investment in community-based organizations like FISH.
“We know there’s still a lot of need, still a lot of pain and suffering that is taking place after being hit by a once-in-a-century pandemic, and the preexisting social conditions that were there even before the pandemic hit our communities in our country so hard,” Jeffries said. “We look forward to continuing to support organizations like this in the work that we do, and certainly supporting local and state governments as well.”
Broomfield Mayor Guyleen Castriotta said her county is growing the fastest of any other in the state, and that Broomfield FISH has been essential as the local need for food and housing is the highest it’s ever been. Scott said in comparing the period from January to July in 2022 to 2023, Broomfield FISH had a 22% increase in services provided.
“When I started eight years ago, we were a safety net organization, and I loved that. We’re a safety net for people in need,” Scott said. “Now, we are a lifeline, because if people didn’t come here, they would go hungry.”
With a new farm bill on the horizon, Jeffries said he is committed to passing it in a bipartisan way that supports organizations like Broomfield FISH to help people facing food and housing insecurity, and Pettersen, also a Democrat, agreed. The farm bill goes through Congress every five years and funds the country’s food and nutrition programs for low-income earners, among various other provisions.
“I think what’s really disappointing is right now we see some of these benefits being held hostage that would support the most vulnerable, especially our kids, in the farm bill, and that’s unacceptable,” Pettersen said. “We’re going to fight to make sure that those benefits are not on the chopping block.”
Pettersen in November was elected to represent Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, which covers Denver’s western suburbs and extends into Jefferson, Park, Lake, Chaffee, Teller, Fremont and Custer counties.