Summer should be a fun and enriching time for all Colorado children, but for many it represents a time when they are at the greatest risk of hunger due to lost access to school meals. A collaborative effort of government agencies, nonprofit and community-based organizations, and school districts focuses on addressing child hunger through a statewide summer food program. This summer, more than 500 community sites across Colorado will provide meals to children up to 18 years old at no cost.
If you think you are too young to help we want to introduce you to TJ in Parker who has a heart for hungry kids in Colorado. He is only 9 years old and is an inspiration to everyone who meets him. Last year he organized a parents night out and this summer we had the privilege to meet he and his family at a yard sale where all of the proceeds from that and his lemonade and donut stand went to Hunger Free Colorado.
The Summer Food Service Program, funded by the USDA, was established to serve as a nutritional safeguard for children when school is not session. It is administered by the Colorado Department of Education and supported by Hunger Free Colorado, with hundreds of Colorado organizations providing meals in their communities and neighborhoods. Sites such as churches, schools and recreation centers offer free, nutritious breakfasts, lunches and/or suppers that meet federal nutrition guidelines, as well as fun, engaging activities for children. There are no income or registration requirements for participation.
“All children should have access to the fuel needed for healthy lives, so they can thrive in and out of school,” said Kathy Underhill, executive director for Hunger Free Colorado, the state’s leading anti-hunger advocacy organization. “It’s estimated one in five Colorado kids experience hunger, but programs like this one serve to ensure fewer kids go hungry. It fills a nutritional gap and helps families stretch their food budgets farther.”
Last year more than 1.34 million summer meals were served to Colorado kids and teens, almost double compared to summer 2009.
Colorado families can find nearby summer food sites by calling the statewide, multilingual Hunger Free Hotline toll-free at (855) 855-4626 or by using an interactive map at KidsFoodFinder.org.