Tyson Noeth says his ultimate goal is to put himself and every other food-insecure nonprofit out of business. He knows it's a long shot, but he’s used to chipping away at big dreams with small innovations. Noeth is the executive director of BGOLDN
, a public-private nonprofit based in Golden that focuses on giving families access to healthy food and choice in what they receive.
BGOLDN started as the Golden Backpack Program
in 2008. At first the initiative focused on providing weekend meals for Golden students registered in free and reduced lunch programs. But last year, it vastly expanded by providing local restaurants with funds to make meals for in-need residents while keeping staff employed. The network it built during that time inspired the rebranding of the nonprofit and the expansions Noeth has planned for later this year.
Noeth has a background in business and marketing. Before moving to Golden in 2018, he lived in southwest Missouri and managed arenas and stadiums. He originally started working at the Golden Backpack as a part-time operations manager, thinking it would be a short-term job. Six weeks later, founder Peggy Halderman left, and Noeth found himself in an executive role.
He realized it was an opportunity to transfer his business background to nonprofit work. “I get more thrill in helping the community than trying to sell more tickets or more food or more beer,” he says. His outsider perspective also led him to question some of the methods behind the traditional food-pantry system.
“The food-pantry model is broken,” he says. Pantries depend on cheap or free food, which is essentially like giving leftovers to community members and hoping they can use those items. Choice is left out of the conversation, and without choice, there can be a lack of dignity and increased stigma in receiving assistance.
He's not the only food-access organizer to say this. MetroCaring
in Denver self-identifies as an anti-hunger organization and centers its food-assistance programs around dignity and choice. Denver Community Fridge
, a mutual-aid network that stocks refrigerators and pantries around the city, specifically focuses on spreading joy and support as well as food.
Circumstance pushed BGOLDN into motion last year. As shutdowns began, Noeth started reaching out to other nonprofits, organizations and leaders in Golden to see what they could do together to help their community. Mayor Laura Weinberg suggested a program that supported both restaurants and those who needed food. Noeth became the point of contact.
Over a dozen Golden restaurants participated in the grab-and-go meal service this past year.
From April 2020 to May 2021, combined fundraising provided Golden restaurants with $325,000. With those funds, restaurants such as Cafe 13, Windy Saddle Cafe, D’Deli, Nosu Ramen, Buffalo Rose, Old Capitol Grill & Smokehouse, Launch Espresso Food Spirits, Mr. Miners Meats & Cheese, Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza and Bonfire Burritos were able to cook breakfast and lunch meals to go for neighbors who needed extra food.
While that plan was a form of emergency assistance, Noeth was inspired by the strength of the network that was created. He now plans to use those connections to create a permanent program with restaurants, their organization and Golden schools called Teens to the Table. The program would provide students experiencing food insecurity with an ID that allows them to purchase food from participating restaurants at a reduced price. The difference in price would be covered predominantly by restaurant patrons.
Noeth hopes this helps teens overcome the stigma involved with receiving free food. “When it comes to teenagers, it doesn’t matter how hungry you are; you’re not going to go grab a bag of food. You’d rather go hungry than ask for help,” he says.
He sees potential in programs like Teens to the Table to allow teens choice in receiving food. But he doesn’t want to stop there. BGOLDN is currently working on partnerships with local grocery stores to purchase food for families that they can order and receive bagged at the checkout line — much like online ordering. BGOLDN would limit the list of available items, but the concept would still give families the ability to pick what they need and want. “These community members are just like you and me," Noeth explains. "It’s the quality they want. I don’t want a can of corn every day. We treat these community members differently than we do ourselves.”
BGOLDN executive director Tyson Noeth and founder Peggy Halderman.
Noeth hopes that partnerships with grocery stores will be a way to circumvent the overhead costs of operating a food pantry in a separate location, like the one BGOLDN currently runs at 16800 West Ninth Avenue in Golden, freeing up funds to be used for purchasing food instead.
Community involvement is essential to the growth of BGOLDN programs, both from patrons who volunteer assets and capital and from community members who are experiencing food insecurity. “We just really need to hear from them: What do you need now? We know that’s probably going to change a week from now, a month from now, a year from now,” Noeth says.
The organization knows that continuing to maintain and increase community input has its challenges. In their final report for the BGOLDN Advisory Council
last November, the organization wrote, “We are not certain we reached all of those most in need and were unable to identify more effective strategies for doing so.”
Noeth hopes that creating community engagement committees and strengthening their overall network will help form stronger connections. And more than that, he hopes that the programs BGOLDN is creating will serve as a blueprint for systems that can be replicated in other cities and counties across the country.
To learn more about BGOLDN, visit bgoldn.org.