Western Colorado Community Foundation Hunger Leadership Initiatives
For the past several years, our Community Foundation has been working on expanding hunger relief efforts by providing funding and technical assistance to address unmet needs and expand programs. Our Community Foundation is proud to work with the various hunger relief entities working to support households and individuals across our region.
Complete The Fleet – Donate Today!
About to launch its 8th summer of operation, the Lunch Lizard Mobile Meals program has been working with a fleet of two older used food trucks that are both nearing 20 years in age. Last year, the trucks needed $40,000 in repairs and were out of commission for several weeks at a time. The new food truck is larger and will be able to carry 400 meals per route (up from 250 meals in the current trucks). Designed and built to exact specifications for the program, the new food truck will allow the highly successful summer food program to expand and serve more kids.
The Lunch Lizard mobile meals program has been in effect since 2015 and provides free meals to children under 18 in underserved neighborhoods during summer months when they are not in school. The program has expanded steadily year after year. In 2021, the Lunch Lizard Program served 29,225 meals using two trucks and two routes.
On May 13, 2022 The Western Colorado Community Foundation (WCCF) presented a $150,000 check to Mesa County Valley School District 51 Food and Nutrition Services (District 51) for the purchase of a new Lunch Lizard food truck today. In conjunction with the check presentation and unveiling of the new truck, WCCF launched a community fundraising campaign to raise an additional $100,000 for a second Lunch Lizard truck.
WCCF is inviting the community to donate funds and help purchase a second new Lunch Lizard truck. Donations of any size are welcome. Make a donation online at wc-cf.org/donate or send a check payable to Western Colorado Community Foundation, PO Box 4334, Grand Junction 81502 with “Lunch Lizard Food Truck” in the memo line
Mesa County is Taking Action to End Hunger
Mesa County has a plan to end hunger! Inspired by the Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger , Mesa County developed 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. The Mesa County Blueprint to End Hunger key goals include:
- Develop a coordinated 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.
To learn more or download the full blueprint click the button
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Hunger Awareness Hunger awareness month is over, but hunger is not. Listen to KAFM Community Radio's interview with Mesa County Department of Human Services, Michelle Trujillo, and Western Colorado Community Foundation, Anne Wenzel to learn more about the...
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - School District 51′s mobile summer food program, the Lunch Lizard, returns for its seventh summer of service. The program has two food trucks that bring free meals to neighborhoods with a higher rate of low-income families. Lunch Lizard...
St. Mary's Medical Center and Homeward Bound, through a grant from Western Community Foundation, partner to reduce food waste and help fight hunger. The grant provided food storage containers and blast cooler equipment to kick start efforts locally. Bryan Johnson, St....