Blueprint to End Hunger
Colorado now has a state-wide plan to end hunger! Several Mesa County projects and initiatives funded by our Community Foundation are featured in the plan, including the Lunch Lizard Summer Mobile Meals Program, District 51 Food and Nutrition Services Kid-Friendly Salad Bars, and the Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief at CSU’s Western Colorado Research Center. See highlights of those programs featured in the report here.
If you are in need of food assistance, please see Western Colorado 211 for resources.
If you are interested in starting a summer mobile meals program in your community, please refer to the following links. No Kid Hungry’s Center for Best Practices has developed a Mobile Meals Playbook with various case studies and planning tips that can greatly assist you in your own process. When developing Mesa County School District 51’s Lunch Lizard, here are some steps that were taken in the planning process that may assist your community.
For more information regarding child hunger:
Taking Action to End Hunger
Colorado has a statewide plan to end hunger! In 2018, the Colorado Health Foundation released the Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger which lays out 5 goals and 12 action steps to address hunger in our state. Several Mesa County projects and initiatives funded by our Community Foundation are featured in the plan, including School District 51’s Lunch Lizard Summer Mobile Meals and their kid-friendly salad bars and the Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief at Colorado State University’s Orchard Mesa Research Station. The Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger inspired Mesa County to develop its own Mesa County Blueprint to End Hunger, thanks to funding from the Colorado Health Foundation and great engagement from the Mesa County Hunger Alliance. While the Mesa County Blueprint to End Hunger is still being finalized, key goals include:
- Develop a co-ordinated emergency and short-term hunger relief system in Mesa County that encourages greater collaboration and increased operating efficiencies and effectiveness in addressing hunger.
- Maximize enrollment in food assistance programs and expand use of federal nutrition programs for hunger relief.
- Increase the amount of high quality, nutritious foods available for people who are hungry.
- Expand and systematize food recovery and grocery rescue efforts so that nutritious food is not thrown away but directed to hunger relief.
- Increase public awareness that hunger is an issue in western Colorado that affects the larger community.
Critical to addressing food insecurity is the Mesa County Hunger Alliance, a coalition of over 20 agencies and organizations working in hunger relief, which is poised to facilitate collaboration to address hunger in Mesa County.
WCCF staff is available to make presentations on hunger in our community and share progress from our action plans. Please contact us with any questions.
Read the Daily Sentinel story on our Leadership Forum on Hunger here.
Read the Daily Sentinel OpEd “Let’s End Hunger” here.
Read WCCF’s LTE to the Daily Sentinel on “joining our community foundation in ending hunger” here.
Supporting Food Recovery Efforts
Forty percent of food that is produced for consumption in the United States is wasted each year. This includes food that is never harvested or brought to market due to imperfections, as well as food items that sit too long in consumer refrigerators and end up spoiling. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates this is about 125 billion pounds of food in the United States that goes uneaten. The Environmental Protection Agency‘s Food Recovery Hierarchy prioritizes actions organizations can take to prevent and divert wasted food.
Our Community Foundation is pleased to support programs, including Sodexo at St. Mary’s Medical Center and Mesa County Valley School District 51, who have implemented creative solutions to keeping food out of the landfill and get it into the bellies of those who are hungry. Our Community Foundation provided Sodexo Dining Services at St. Mary’s Medical Center with funding for specialized equipment needed to support food recovery efforts. In 2020, Our Community Foundation further supported food recovery in our community with a grant to HomewardBound to purchase a refrigerated food truck to handle their myriad food donation pick-ups from local grocery stores and institutions including St. Mary’s and Colorado Mesa University.
Western Colorado Community Foundation extends a heartfelt thank you to all our donors who supported heightened food insecurity needs due to the onset of COVID-19.
In Spring of 2020, our Community Foundation launched a Virtual Canned Food Drive to support food pantries who were no longer able to run volunteer-led food drives. Nearly $60,000 in donations have been raised through this fund to support food pantries across our seven country region.
Additionally, the Bray Cares Foundation spearheaded a community effort to raise funds and support both nonprofits and locally owned restaurants who were struggling to stay open in Spring 2020. The Caring for Our Home Community Fund has raised over $50,000 to help nonprofit organizations feed families and seniors struggling to keep food on the table, with all funds being used at local restaurants to provide
the meals. Needs continue into 2021 and donations are still being accepted. To donate or learn more, please see here.
Alleviating Child Hunger
WCCF’s first leadership initiative was to address childhood hunger, an issue that impacts hundreds of children and their ability to learn. An estimated 50 million Americans do not know where their next meal will come from, amounting to 1 in 6 Americans. This impacts children right here in Colorado – with estimates of 1 in 6 children not knowing when or where they will get their next meal. Nearly 60% of Colorado teachers report that they have students who regularly come to school hungry. Studies show that when children are not receiving proper nutrition, they fall behind and stay behind their peers. Students have difficulty focusing, causing for lost instruction time within the classroom.
Since 2012, WCCF has been identifying innovative solutions to address child hunger in our communities and providing funding to hunger relief organizations to help them better meet community needs. In 2015, after learning about gaps in services through meetings with school district employees, parents, stakeholders and child hunger organizations, WCCF partnered with Mesa County Valley School District 51’s Food and Nutrition Services to pilot the Lunch Lizard, bringing free summer meals to low-income neighborhoods to ensure kids have access to a nutritious lunch during the summer months.
Lunch Lizard Summer Mobile Meals Program – Feeding Hungry Kids…One Neighborhood at a Time
In 2015, WCCF and Mesa County Valley School District 51’s Food and Nutrition Services piloted the Lunch Lizard Summer Mobile Meals Program, providing free, nutritious meals to children ages 0-18 in Mesa County’s lower income areas. Lunch is brought directly to where children live and play, decreasing barriers for children to access summer meals. Partners like School District 51 help WCCF identify community needs. For instance, over 10,000 students are eligible for free and reduced lunches, but these children have limited meal options in the summer months.
Since 2015, the Lunch Lizard has increased the number of meals served sixfold, providing over 20,000 meals to children each summer. Kids Aid partners with the program and provides over 2,500 bags of weekend food.
The Lunch Lizard now has three trucks serving about 15 community sites during the summer. The Lunch Lizard trucks are also used during the school year to bring meals to schools that do not have kitchens and the trucks were a great help during the on-set of COVID-19 in 2020.
For more information on summer meals near your community see the Summer Meals Western Colorado Facebook page here.
To learn more about District 51 Nutrition Services, check out their webpage, here.
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