The city will renew food-bank inspections in 2013
The Denver Rescue Mission collects thousands of turkeys every November to help feed the homeless and provide Thanksgiving dinners for families who have trouble affording them on their own.
This year, as usual, the organization sent out a panicked alert in mid-November that it had only received a fraction of the 18,000 turkeys it needed. This is a tactic that seems to work, since the Mission managed to hit its target figure in the last few days of Thanksgiving 2011 — but there was a new twist this year. David Bloom, the co-founder with ex-Bronco Mark Schlereth of Schlereth's Stinkin' Good Green Chile, announced that he would live at the Mission, located on Park Avenue West near Lawrence Street, until 10,000 turkeys were donated. It took five days and dozens of begging tweets to John Elway, Tim Tebow and others to hit the number.
"Most of those turkeys come in and go right out again. We are a pseudo-turkey distributor during the Thanksgiving season," says Alexxa Gagner, spokeswoman for Denver Rescue. "We have requests from about 100 different agencies, churches, schools and organizations for those turkeys. We do our best to fulfill everyone's needs."
The Mission itself gives out about 1,250 Thanksgiving food boxes and feeds another 1,000 people in the days leading up to the holiday. It will keep the rest of the turkeys and use them over the course of the year.
But needy families and the homeless will have something else to be thankful for in 2013: The City of Denver will begin inspecting non-profit food banks again after a five-year hiatus brought about by budget cuts.
"We had been strapped, resource-wise, and had been spending our time and facilities on places with the greatest risk," says Danica Lee, food-program manager for the Denver Department of Environmental Health. "We had prioritized those as places where people pay for their food — and places that operate every day of the year — over nonprofits."
Now the department will go back and reopen files that had been deactivated five years ago and begin inspecting food banks anywhere from one to three times a year, depending on how much food is handled at each, rather than just when there is a complaint.
The reason for the change: In July, the Denver Rescue Mission treated about 200 homeless people to a turkey dinner — but because of unsafe food-handling practices, at least sixty diners got serious cases of food poisoning. The situation was so bad that the Denver Fire Department had to close Lawrence between 22nd and 23rd streets so that emergency personnel could look for those who got sick.
The turkeys had been cooked by a catering company and then donated to the Denver Rescue Mission. But once they were in-house, the organization didn't follow its own handling guidelines. Since then, the Mission has adopted new procedures for accepting prepared food. "If someone comes to the doors with, say, burritos, there is a form they have to fill out," Gagner explains, noting that the form asks for such info as cooking temperatures for the food, how long it was cooked, where, when, and other variables.
The Rescue Mission — which takes only frozen turkeys during its November turkey drive — is back in compliance now, however, and won't be subjected to any more inspections in 2013 than any other agency, Lee says.
Scene and herd: Speaking of big fat turkeys, George Boedecker Jr., the co-founder of the Crocs shoe company, has an appearance scheduled for November 30 in Boulder District Court. Boedecker was charged with a DUI in August after police said they found him passed out in his Porsche. During the arrest, he allegedly bragged about how many houses he owned, claimed that his girlfriend, who he said had been driving, was singer Taylor Swift, then told the Boulder cops to "go fuck yourselves in the ass."
Boedecker has since pleaded not guilty, and earlier this week, his philanthropic foundation donated 700 turkeys to the Nashville Rescue Mission in Swift's home town of Nashville, Tennesee. Gobble, gobble.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.