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Denver launches summer meal program to keep kids fed while school's out

Posted at 7:45 PM, Jun 10, 2024

DENVER — The City of Denver on Monday launched its summer meal program to keep kids fed while school's out.

Nearly 46% of students qualified for free and reduced lunch during the 2023-2024 school year, according to the Colorado Department of Education. Communities have worked to fill the gap left behind when school is out for the summer and families who are food insecure no longer have access to those free meals.

Denver launched its summer meal program, Tasty Food, on Monday. The age of participants has been expanded to 3 to 18 years old.

"There has been an uptick in Tasty Food participation, especially since the pandemic. But it continues to rise today," said Andrea Garcia-Schoelzel, the Health Initiatives Administrator for the Office of Children's Affairs for the City and County of Denver.

Denver's summer meal program launched in 2012 and has served 1.7 million meals and snacks to local kids. There is no application or identification required to receive a meal.

"We hope that accessing these food resources brings some financial relief to those families," Garcia-Schoelzel said.

The program is federally funded through the USDA. The meals vary from sack lunch staples to warm options like chicken fajitas or meatballs in marinara sauce.

"We know that access to consistent nutrition fuels not only their academic success but their mental and emotional well-being as well as social stability," said Garcia-Schoelzel.

The locations of the free meals are in strategic areas, including libraries and recreation centers.

"We hope that young people not only come to access free meals and snacks but also to engage in the youth programming that's happening," Garcia-Schoelzel said. "We want to make it an awesome summer all the way around for young people."

A full list of locations and schedules for Denver's Tasty Food program can be found through this link. To find free summer meal options close to where you live, use the interactive map below:

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