Helping people who are facing hunger in Colorado

An aging Ford delivers food to struggling families in two Colorado counties.
March 30, 2021
donated ambulance for mobile food pantry to help with hunger in Colorado parked outside Highlands Ranch Hospital.
Diane Cookson, president of UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital, shares details about an ambulance that has a new life as a mobile food pantry and will be used by Help and Hope Center to help battle hunger in Colorado. Photo by Molly Blake, UCHealth.

An out-of-service UCHealth ambulance has been repurposed to respond to a new kind of emergency in our communities: food insecurity.

Instead of speeding to help sick people, the 1997 Ford E-350 brings food to those who might otherwise go hungry. Sporting a new vinyl wrap bearing the name Help and Hope Center, the old Ford donated by UCHealth will carry canned goods, fresh fruit, bread and more to struggling families who live in Douglas and Elbert counties in Colorado.

Hunger in Colorado

For more than a year, the Help and Hope Center has been the focus of employees at  UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital. Hospital leaders began to understand the nonprofit organization’s role in Colorado communities, and employees began to donate food, toiletries, and clothing to help the less fortunate.

“We learned that people were driving 90 miles round-trip because they were dealing with food scarcity,” said Susan Manfredi, HRH’s volunteer coordinator. “That was counterintuitive to us.”

UCHealth reached out to Dan Marlow, the Health and Hope Center’s executive director, and offered the gift of the vehicle.

“They sent a picture of it, and they said, ‘You know, we have this ambulance, and we would like to give it to you,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a new idea, but it’s a great one,” said Marlow.

The old ambulance still has its red-and-blue emergency light bar in place. Marlow thinks it’s cool that instead of responding to a crisis, the old ambulance might prevent one.

“This is really a big deal to us,” Marlow said. “We’ve been wanting to expand our reach into Elbert County and the more rural areas. Now, we can.”

Last year, UCHealth reinvested a record $1.1 billion in total community benefits, including $427 million in uncompensated care. Many community benefits programs are designed with the goal of decreasing individuals’ needs for health care and preventing more serious medical conditions. Other examples of efforts include health-focused programs for children, a no-cost nurse advice call center for triage and care coordination and close cooperation with law enforcement including sexual assault nurse examiners and pairing mental health professionals with patrol officers.

Learn more about UCHealth’s community benefits.