Volume 3 | October 2021
Hunger Matters provides updates about our community efforts
to alleviate hunger in western Colorado
Expanding Meals for Seniors in Mesa County
Exciting Partnership between Meals on Wheels and Food Bank of the Rockies to Build New Commercial Kitchen
Sue Ellen Rodwick, Director of Food Bank of the Rockies Western Slope (left), and Amanda de Bock,
Director of Mesa County Meals on Wheels, at a private groundbreaking event to celebrate
their partnership in September
Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies and Meals on Wheels are moving ahead with an exciting partnership! Currently located in Palisade and serving 12 counties in western Colorado, Food Bank of the Rockies is needing a larger distribution warehouse. They have secured land and are building a new facility off of 23 Road in Grand Junction. The Meals on Wheels program serves lunches to vulnerable seniors through group distribution sites and home delivery, and has been in need of a larger and more modern kitchen for preparing its meals. The two organizations are entering into a partnership arrangement wherein Meals on Wheels will lease and use a commercial kitchen built to their specifications in the new warehouse distribution center. The new kitchen will allow Meals on Wheels to double the number of meals it can prepare and serve in a day, from 500 meals to 1,000. The kitchen will install modern time-saving equipment and is designed to maximize efficient flow of volunteers who arrive daily to pick up meals for their delivery routes. Meals on Wheels will use the kitchen from 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM on weekdays, and the kitchen will be available for FBR’s use in the afternoons.

Several grants from donor funds totaling $100,000 will help purchase the kitchen equipment needed for the new Meals on Wheels kitchen. More information about the project can be found here. The total capital campaign for the land acquisition and new warehouse is approximately $6 million.
Healthy Meals for Riverside Educational Center Students
New Kitchen to Serve 700 Hungry Kids
For years, Riverside Educational Center (REC) Snack Manager, Alan Anderson, has long worked culinary magic to feed students after-school who are participating in REC’s academic and enrichment programs. He has worked out of a small kitchen at a District 51 school, preparing after-school snacks and then hauling coolers of food to the various tutoring sites. Thanks to several generous Community Foundation donor-advised funds, REC is remodeling a kitchen and installing commercial grade sinks and a walk-in cooler at their location off Winters Avenue. Their new warehouse location provides ample room to store enrichment materials and bicycles, along with providing for office space and a centralized kitchen to better meet their needs. REC expanded their programs for the 2021-22 school year, increasing from 11 to 15 sites and nearly doubling the number of students they can serve to 700.

REC students and caregivers note that the meal-sized healthy snack they receive is one of their favorite aspects of the program. After a long school day, many students arrive hungry to REC’s afternoon programming. Healthy snacks refuel students so they can give their undivided attention to their homework and enrichment activities. REC’s snack also reduces pressure on families facing food insecurity; nearly 80% of REC students qualify for free/reduced lunch. 

Joy Hudak, Director of Riverside Educational Center, stands in front of newly installed sinks
Alan Anderson last year with bagged snack bags. The new kitchen will provide more nutritious and fresh snacks for the REC students.  
School District Lunch Trucks Serving Up Summer Meals
Our Community Foundation is committed to making sure students have access to nutritious meals over the summer, when school is not in session. We first worked closely with School District 51 to design and launch the Lunch Lizard mobile meals program, and then a similar program for Garfield County Re-2 School District to purchase its Meal Monkey food truck.
Wrapping up mid August, the Lunch Lizard food trucks had a successful seventh summer on the road, delivering meals to kids where they live and play. Two Lunch Lizard food trucks served eight locations and curbside meals were provided at nine locations, primarily schools. The Lunch Lizard continued to partner with Kids Aid to provide weekend food on Fridays and also partnered with Food Bank of the Rockies who provided meals to children on Fridays. District 51 had challenges filling positions needed to run its mobile meals program 5 days/week this summer. Even with staffing challenges, the Lunch Lizard served 29,225 meals (19,024 lunches and 10,201 breakfasts). The curbside and school sites served an additional 114,575 meals (55,224 lunches and 59,351 breakfasts). This amounts to an incredible 143,800 meals provided to Mesa County children over the summer.
Re-2’s Meal Monkey
Rifle’s Meal Monkey Summer Mobile Meals program provided 19,984 meals (breakfast and lunch) to Garfield County children this summer. This is a remarkable increase in meals from two years ago in 2019, when 5,275 lunches were served. Meals were delivered by school buses and the Meal Monkey food truck, due to how many children utilized the program. The route included four stops in Rifle and five stops in Silt and New Castle. Additionally, meals were provided at two summer school locations, Cactus Valley Elementary in Silt and Elk Creek Elementary in New Castle, where Re-2 provided 8,000 meals (breakfast and lunch). The program continued its partnership with LIFT-UP and the River Center to provide meals to children Monday through Friday throughout the valley. A total of 27,984 meals were served to Garfield County children. 
News Briefs

Welcome Chelsea to Community Food Bank and Kids Aid!

This summer Community Food Bank and Kids Aid entered a formal strategic alliance to work more closely together to better meet food insecurity needs in the community. Chelsea Craine is now the Program and Operations Director for the two organizations. Chelsea is not new to Community Food Bank, as she got involved as a volunteer and then was hired on to run the home delivery program that began in 2020, when needs due to COVID spiked. Chelsea’s new expanded role will include working to support enrollment in food assistance programs, including SNAP and WIC, which falls within the goals of the Mesa County Blueprint to End Hunger. 
Mesa County Commissioners Proclaim July as Hunger Awareness Month

On July 12, the Mesa County Commissioners proclaimed July as Hunger Awareness Month. The County oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at Department of Human Services, a key program that helps subsidize grocery budgets for eligible households. KREX coverage of the proclamation can be found here

In Mesa County, 57% of people who are eligible for SNAP benefits are enrolled in the program. County commissioners, health and human services department staff and nonprofits are working collaboratively to reduce stigma and help eligible people navigate the enrollment process to get signed up for benefits for which they qualify.
Colorado Health Foundation board trustees and staff were in Mesa County on October 7-8 conducting site visits, including a two hour tour and “mock client experience” at Community Food Bank where they went through the client intake process and shopped for healthy foods for their food boxes. Mutual Aid set up a pop-up tent in the parking lot to demonstrate their weekly Tuesday distribution program of food and free services for homeless and low-income neighbors.
WCCF's President, Anne Wenzel, and Michelle Trujillo with Department of Human Services were interviewed by KAFM during Hunger Awareness Month. Topics range from the goals of the Mesa County Blueprint to End Hunger to statistics on hunger in our community to how SNAP can help in times of need.
Community leaders weigh in on the importance of
addressing food insecurity
Hunger is a problem here in western Colorado…
where one in two children qualify for free or reduced price school lunch and one in
eight residents do not know where their next meal may be coming from. Our regional
Community Foundation has been working on expanding hunger relief efforts, including the development of summer mobile meal programs - the Lunch Lizard (Mesa County) and the
Meal Monkey (Garfield County) - and providing funding and technical
assistance to address unmet needs and expand programs.
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