Fort Collins locals support communities through food

Lyra Wiley

The saying that food brings people together couldn’t be more true for many community spaces in Fort Collins. These community spaces take different forms and offer various services, but they were created with one thing in mind: bringing people together and supporting people who need it.

FoCo Cafe


broad shot of people sitting down at different tables; sign that says "How to Pay: what you are able; what you would at any restaurant; pay it forward; contribute time or talent"
People eating lunch at Foco Cafe on Friday, Dec. 7. (Collegian | Anna von Pechmann)

The first nonprofit restaurant in Fort Collins opened Thanksgiving Day in 2014 with the goal to help community members at little to no cost. Co-founded by Jeff Baumgardner and Kathleen Baumgardner, FoCo Cafe is a pay-what-you-can establishment that has a donation box instead of a cash register.

“If people are unable to give anything, I let them know that they still have a way to eat with us, and that’s by them giving us a little bit of their time,” said Mark Green, board advisor at the Cafe. “We always find something for someone to do to give them the sense that they’re giving back to the community.”

Green said that the cafe supports and encourages people to come together and look out for one another. This can be seen through the cafe’s programs that include the FoCo Freedge and The Giving Tree. The Freedge, which was created in an effort to minimize food waste, provides fresh produce donated by local restaurants and people. 

“Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity, regardless of their level of success or how much money they have,” Green said. “I welcome everyone and treat them with respect. All walks of life come through that door: I’ve served homeless people, people with mental illness, physical disabilities and drug and alcohol addiction.”

Green said that the Cafe is more than just a place to eat, it is also a place for people to add value to their lives.

“When people are struggling or homeless, they don’t really see anything out there available to them,” Green said. “They really don’t see much hope in this world. But this place gives people hope. They see people out of the kindness of their hearts giving to strangers.”

Gals That Brunch

Gals That Brunch is a movement that aims towards creating a community of women that empower each other over delicious food. Caitlin Topham became the Fort Collins chapter leader in May 2017. 

“I was new here, and being out of college I found that it was really hard to meet people,” Topham said. “I really wanted a way to meet some girlfriends and like-minded people, and brunch is a good way to do that.” 

GTB services extend beyond connecting women over brunch. Its blog covers health and wellness, travel, style and advice. The service turned into an international service that women can use to improve their lives and find belonging. The GTB headquarters reside in San Diego, but its services can be found in 34 states. Three of those chapters are in Colorado, specifically in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins.


“I hope people can make actual friendships and hang out outside of the brunch gatherings,” Topham said. “I’ve gone to happy hour with a couple girls I met over brunch. The end goal is really just to meet people.” 

When people are struggling or homeless, they don’t really see anything out there available to them…But this place gives people hope. They see people out of the kindness of their hearts giving to strangers.”-Mark Green, board advisor of FoCo Cafe

Fort Collins Food Cooperative

The Fort Collins Food Co-op was started in 1972 by a group of Colorado State University students who wanted to bring healthy and affordable food to Northern Colorado. It is Fort Collins’ only member-owned, non-profit grocery store that was founded by the community.

“The biggest way we are apart of the community is that the community owns us,” said Trinity Bigford, deli manager and one of the general managers at the Co-op. “We’re cooperatively managed, so we don’t have an acting manager. Instead, we have members who are actually the owners and get to decide the vision of the store. We are completely community driven.”

The Co-op serves the community by providing vetted products, promoting sustainable food choices and supporting the local food economy. The grocery store practices fair trade and supports local makers, growers and innovators as much as they can by carrying goods that members want.

Bigford said their purpose is to provide the community with the freshest, highest quality of food in the area. The Co-op’s small size gives them an advantage because they are able to do a lot of product research rather than pulling from distributors.  

“We’re locally focused first, and after that, we’re organically focused,” Bigford said. “Because we’re so small, it’s really easy for somebody who is starting out as a producer to bring in a case of their product to see if people like it. It gives the community a place where they can test their products.”

The Co-op also recycles and composts, with only a small percentage of their waste being trash. The store focuses on the “triple bottom line,” which ensures everyone involved in the supply chain are treated well, along with the planet.



“We’re looking to make a profit because we want to be able to stay here and give back to the community,” Bigford said. “But people and the planet are more important than the profit for us.”

Lyra Wiley can be reached at or on Twitter @lyra_wiley.