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Free Summer Meals Program Aims to Prevent Academic Slide

Last year, Colorado's Summer Food Service Program served 1.5 million meals to kids at more than 680 locations across the state. (USDA)
Last year, Colorado's Summer Food Service Program served 1.5 million meals to kids at more than 680 locations across the state. (USDA)
July 16, 2019

DENVER — Summer should be a fun time for kids, but many Colorado children face greater risks of going hungry after school cafeterias close their doors. More than 600 sites across the state are stepping up to make sure all kids have the nutrition they need to return in the fall ready to learn.

Taylor Washington, community engagement manager with Hunger Free Colorado, said most of the sites serving free meals also offer activities to help kids avoid backsliding on hard-won academic achievement.

"There are sites that have a small library that's all age-appropriate so kids can read throughout the summer, or that have different games that help them continue to improve on their math skills throughout the summer,” Washington said.

Activities also can include making papier mache projects, building aquariums, making home-made soap, in addition to open swimming and basketball. There are no income or registration requirements; kids can just show up and eat.

Washington said many Colorado families don't have the financial resources to make up for lost school breakfasts and lunches, and the summer meal program helps struggling parents stretch food budgets. Safe, community-based sites offer free breakfasts, lunches, suppers and snacks that meet federal nutrition guidelines.

She said families can pick from a variety of locations closest to them at

"And they can type in their address and the closest sites will populate and let the families know which meals a site serves; so it can be breakfast, lunch or dinner, up to seven days a week,” Washington said.

Some sites serve up to two meals per day. Colorado's Summer Food Service Program is a collaboration between government agencies, nonprofit and community-based organizations, and is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Families also can get help locating summer meals and other food resources by calling Hunger Free Colorado's toll-free hotline at (855) 855-4626 or by texting the word "food" or "comida" to 877-877.

Disclosure: Hunger Free Colorado contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO