Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado, is known for its diversity of businesses and residents. It is home to establishments ranging from upscale restaurants to motels housing low-income and homeless families. However, the upscale scene doesn’t tell the whole story. Within a two-mile stretch of Colfax, there are an estimated 15,000 children who qualify for free and reduced school meals, which means there are thousands of children who could benefit from a free nutritious meal during the summer.
Several Colorado organizations recognized this high need and joined together with a goal of feeding 1,000 children in the neighborhood this summer. The Colfax Community Network (CCN) is an organization that advocates for children and families living in the area by providing information, services and programs to strengthen and improve family and community life.
In the summer of 2012, the community network’s Executive Director Jennifer Herrera received a call from Colorado advocacy group Hunger Free Colorado informing her that the children that she worked with were eligible to get a free meal during the summer months. Herrera’s group jumped into action, shifting existing programs to begin providing meals with only one week’s notice.”
Last summer, CCN coordinated a site that fed 140 kids daily. This year, Herrera has worked with organizations along the Colfax Corridor to establish seven open and two closed summer feeding sites in both Denver and Aurora, Colorado. Herrera said her job is to work to provide kids with a “caring community” and noticed that it takes all of us to do that. She also noted an important fact – that volunteers who come to help the kids make a significant impact on the lives of the at-risk children they serve.
CCN uses community volunteers to help run the sites, and they include fun and educational activities at each site to keep the children entertained for a while before and after they eat. Site locations include parks, a library, several churches and apartment buildings.
Last month, CCN hosted a kickoff event for their summer effort at New Freedom Park in Denver, at which 120 boxed lunches were served. The children receiving meals at this site and their parents represent at least 10 countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, Ethiopia and Somalia.
A number of the participating organizations joined the celebration. Food Bank of the Rockies is the sponsor for the site, and a company called Lunch Box Express transports the meals via school bus to three of the locations and serves the food with the help of volunteers. Hunger Free Colorado attended, as well as Colorado State Representative Jenise May, USDA Food and Nutrition Service representatives, and a group called We Don’t Waste, which provided free produce to the children’s parents.
Several media outlets also attended the event and got the word out about the Summer Food Service Program. The Denver Post, Denver’s KMGH Channel 7, Channel 9 KUSA in Denver, The Aurora Sentinel, and Aurora Channel 8 all reported on this successful partnership.
For more information on how you can get involved in the fight against hunger visit our Summer Food Service page and our Get Involved page which provides lots of ideas on how you can contribute to this important cause.