Free, healthy summer meals for Colorado kids and teens
posted by: Amber Johnson
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.
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, dozens of sponsors and hundreds of Colorado organizations that are providing summer meals in their communities and neighborhoods.
“Just as learning does not end when school lets out, neither does a child’s need for good nutrition,” said Kathy Underhill, CEO of Hunger Free Colorado, the state’s leading anti-hunger advocacy organization. “It’s estimated one in five Colorado kids may not know when or where they will get their next meal, but programs like this ensure all children have access to the fuel needed to thrive throughout the summer months and help families stretch their food budgets further.”
Community sites such as churches, schools and recreation centers offer free breakfasts, lunches, suppers and/or snacks that meet federal nutrition guidelines, as well as fun, engaging activities for children so they continue to exercise their minds and their bodies. There are no income or registration requirements for participation.
Increasing awareness and access to the summer food program is a priority for the statewide collaborative, in addition to boosting the academic success and well-being of Colorado children. Thanks to the involvement of partners across the state, Colorado successfully doubled the number of meals served to kids and teens in 2015 compared to 2009.
“Sponsors and champions of the Summer Food Service Program help ensure that all children in Colorado have access to healthy meals during the summer,” said Bre Riley, interim director of the Office of School Nutrition with the Colorado Department of Education. “Last summer, more than 1.5 million summer meals were served to children and we hope to increase that number even more this summer.”