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MESA COUNTY, Colo. No child should ever go hungry. It affects not only the health and social aspects of a child’s life, but also their ability to grow and learn. Over 7 thousand kids here in Mesa County, have empty stomachs, and students at Colorado Mesa University are helping to fight the growing epidemic of local childhood hunger.

“You don’t think it’s a real problem here in Mesa County. You don’t think there are kids going hungry, deep down there is and it’s sad,” explained Ryan Ruark, with the CMU Business Honors Society.

What began as a school project, turned into much more. A group of college students are now teaming up with the Western Colorado Community Foundation and District 51, to lessen the growing epidemic of childhood hunger.

“Children are really impacted by the hunger here in the state,” explained Lauren Heaton, with CMU’s Business Honors Society. “Over 23 percent of our kids go hungry.”

This past summer, D51 launched a program, using a food truck to help feed low-income kids meals that they may not otherwise get.

Now CMU students are trying to raise money through donations for a second food truck, that will allow the school district to provide an additional 6 to 7 thousand meals to hungry kids.

“Proper nutrition allows your brain to work better” Ruark explained. “You’re functioning better in the classroom. You’re able to participate more and you aren’t thinking about food while you are in class you are actually thinking about your studies.”

According to D51 and students research, about 44 percent of our households are at or near the federal poverty level. About 40 percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunches.

“When a community experiences a downward spiral in terms of economic sustainability, we see more and more kids, and the rates moving higher and higher,” said Tedi Gillespie, with the WCCF.

The WCCF says an anonymous donor is willing to match funds raised in order to purchase a second food truck, and CMU students say they won’t stop until every mesa county kid has a meal.

“If they are hungry they can’t focus on anything that they do, they don’t have the energy to do the things that they love and they just aren’t as happy,” Heaton said.

District 51 says they are hoping to have the second food truck purchased by next summer. The fundraiser today at CMU raised around$1,000.

If you are interested in donating to this foundation for Colorado Gives Day, visit https://www.coloradogives.org/CoGivesDay. You can then search for the Western Colorado Community Foundation, and donate!