Stigmattack: Our Food Partnership with Denver Public Schools

with Audrey at DSST Cole Unloading Produce Boxes

Stigmattack! That’s what we call our full-frontal food offensive against hunger with the Denver Public Schools with which we work. A few weeks ago, we shared the story of our partnership with the LoVVe project to bring healthy and delicious food to students and families at Ellis Elementary. At Stigma, we are proud to be partnering with two DPS high schools as well.

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Find Your Story

Do you have a story that’s clawing, scraping and crying to get out? How about this question: Are you ready for the freedom and enlightenment that only authenticity and connection can provide?

Those are thought provoking inquiries. They are the kind of questions that we disregard at our own peril. Why not explore the true answers, and understand what your story means?

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Leaning into Vulnerability with CAiR

Darin Valdez Preparing for The Story Writing Workshop at Colorado Village Collaborative

Anyone who doesn’t believe the power of the stigma to hold people locked in addiction hasn’t met Darin Valdez or heard his story.

Darin is the founder and executive director of Colorado Artists in Recovery – a Denver-based nonprofit with the mission to help people find their artistic creativity as a pathway to healing from addiction and other mental health challenges. Like a lot of us, Darin’s dedication to helping people is born from his determination to pay it forward. Just a few snowy winters ago, Darin nearly died from exposure as he lived on the streets and battled a debilitating meth addiction.

What kept Darin from getting help? Why did he nearly freeze to death in an outdoor stairwell in December of 2013?

He was too ashamed to ask his family for help.

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Neighborlies Stuck on Your To-Do List

I bumped into a neighbor on a walk a few days ago. She is a good friend and supportive community member. She told me she had been meaning to contact me about our Neighborlies (emergency relief food bags). She wants to participate in our distribution of food to our homeless neighbors here in Denver.

She suggested that maybe I should just tell her what’s in our Neighborlies, and she could buy the ingredients and assemble her own to give away. And that’s when it hit me – a big old cartoon lightbulb went on over my head.

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Weaponizing the Words Perpetuates the Stigma

If we refuse to name it, how can we expect to defeat it? That sentiment is popular in the field of stigmatized conditions. It’s also powerful and 100% true.

Stigma is not just an unfortunate side effect – the collateral damage of trying to feel better about ourselves by looking down our noses at the socio-economic layers below us. Stigma is debilitating. It keeps people stuck in otherwise improvable situations because stigma makes not drawing attention to our troubles the highest priority – even higher than getting out of our jam.

The othering of our neighbors – it’s easier to compare and dismiss than it is to engage in compassion and involvement.

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LoVVe for Ellis Elementary School

Crushing the stigma associated with hunger means one thing: providing food with a heaping helping of dignity and love. And that’s exactly what the LoVVe Project in Virginia Village is doing with the students and families of Ellis Elementary School. This is not just a food pantry. It is a cultural crossroads. It is working together to make everyone stronger.

This is community.

At Stigma, we believe that supporting the LoVVe Project with grass-fed and humanely raised meat, fresh vegetables, Colorado honey, and local fruits is at the core of our mission to crush the stigmas of addiction, hunger and homelessness. It’s how the volunteers at the LoVVe project use the food to connect the community that ensures dignity and makes this project special.

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So What’s The Story?

“But these stories don’t mean anything when you’ve got no one to tell them to. It’s true, I was made for you.” -Brandi Carlile

We were overwhelmed by so many of you who expressed interest in The Story Writing Workshops we are hosting at SAME Cafe on Thursday mornings. Even with all the interest we have received, there is still room for people to reserve a spot and come write with us. Here are the details:

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The Story Writing Workshop

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank

Writing is powerful. When we write, we dig deep and discover truths about ourselves that we can’t access simply by thinking or talking. Writing is therapeutic. Writing is inspiring. Writing is freedom and growth.

Come write with us on Thursday mornings at the SAME Cafe!

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