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Summer Meals Open to All Kids; No Registration Required

To find a free summer meal for any Coloradan age 18 and younger, text the word "food" or "comida" to 877-877. (Galatas)
To find a free summer meal for any Coloradan age 18 and younger, text the word "food" or "comida" to 877-877. (Galatas)
July 11, 2018

DENVER – Summer activities for kids are at full pitch, and Colorado parents may not realize that many of the same pools and recreation centers where kids meet up with their friends also are offering free, nutritious meals for anyone age 18 and younger.

Ellie Agar, interim communications director for the group Hunger Free Colorado, said the federally funded summer-meals program serves up healthy food at more than 500 community sites across the state.

"There's no registration, there are no income requirements," she said. "Anyone can go – kids and teens, sometimes even reduced-cost meals for parents – and get these meals, so they've got fuel to get through the months and be ready to go back to school when we hit the fall."

While the program is aimed at kids who rely on school meals, Agar said it also helps parents who struggle to stretch food budgets when cafeterias close for summer.

The program has launched a new texting feature to help locate meal sites with a smart phone. It can be accessed by texting the word "food" or "comida" to 877-877. The service will ask for a ZIP code and show nearby locations. Maps and other information also are available online at KidsFoodFinder.org.

Community sites that offer a range of options for breakfast, lunch, supper and even afternoon snacks include churches, schools and recreation centers. Agar said most locations organize fun activities for kids to help keep their minds sharp until school is back in session.

"At recreation centers, there's often sports and games," she said. "We've found it's great for children academically as well as physically to be able to have these sites with enrichment activities as well as nutritious meals."

One in seven Colorado kids frequently doesn't know where his or her next meal is coming from, and Agar said the summer meals program is an important tool for fighting hunger. Last year, more than 1.5 million meals were served, and the program could hit or exceed that number this summer.

Meal site information also can be found online at hungerfreecolorado.org/summer.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO