Bags of food to be distributed on June 30, 2021, during a food pantry distribution at the Village Exchange Center in Aurora (Rachel Woolf for Colorado Newsline)
Almost half of Colorado families with children struggle to put nutritious food on the table, but the Colorado Department of Education and its recent partnerships are working to change that.
The Colorado Department of Education has partnered with Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger and Hunger Free Colorado to increase access to free meals over the summer for people 18 and under.
An April 2021 survey conducted by Hunger Free Colorado showed that 44% of Colorado households with children and teenagers struggle to have regular access to nutritious food, and 16% are not getting adequate nutrition due to not having enough money for food, according to a CDE statement.
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“Summer can be a challenging time for youth who have lost access to school breakfast and lunch,” Marc Jacobson, the CEO of Hunger Free Colorado, said in the statement. “Keeping children fueled through the summer months with no-cost, healthy meals ensures they return to school ready to learn and is part of a strong foundation to help them grow and thrive.”
The Summer Meals Program provides free meals that follow U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition guidelines to people 18 and under. Through the partnership, the CDE School Nutrition Unit, the Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger and Hunger Free Colorado are working to increase the number of young people who are served by the Summer Meals Program. The groups are trying to increase awareness of the program, and provide resources and training to new and existing program sponsors.
Over 11 million free meals were provided to Colorado children and teenagers in October 2021, which is a 60% increase from October 2020.
Parents can find summer meal sites by texting FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304 or by going to kidsfoodfinder.org. Parents do not need to apply to the program in order for their children to receive free summer meals.
The Summer Meals Programs, funded by the USDA and administered through the CDE’s School Nutrition Unit, ensures that Colorado children and teenagers have access to meals throughout the summer, according to the statement.
People who are interested in becoming a program sponsor, site or state partner for the Summer Meals Program can contact Megan Johnson at [email protected] or 303-653-6138, or go to the Summer Food Service Program website.
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