In yesterday’s post you got the heads up about the general support that the Food Bank for Larimer County provides our community. Now let’s dig in a little deeper into the programs they offer, starting with their Child Nutrition programs.
I can’t even begin to explain how much child hunger in Larimer County breaks my heart. My kids go to a Title 1 school, meaning that there’s a higher percentage of kids living in poverty attending their school and the school is qualified to receive more funds to support their needs.
This also means that there are a good number of their friends that live in poverty and have to worry about where their next meal may come from. It’s one thing to think of anonymous people in our community receiving help from the Food Bank, it’s another thing to know that they are your children’s friends – friends that they play tag with at recess, go on ride bikes with around the neighborhood, and attend their birthday parties.
That’s one reason why I wanted to break down what the Food Bank provides our community – so we get a real idea of what these needs look like in Fort Collins. The more we understand about our neighbors in need, the more we’re all apt to lend a helping hand.
14% Larimer County residents live at or below the Federal Poverty guideline leaving 42,880 Larimer County residents food insecure. 30.8% of single mothers in our community live in poverty with 33% of school-aged children in Larimer County receive free or reduced meals.
The cause of hunger is usually poverty. There are a significant number of families that live in the grey area, making too much money to qualify for aid and assistance programs, yet cannot afford to feed their families due to the high cost of living in Larimer County.
Their Child Nutrition programs include: Kids Cafe, Kids Link and Backpack. Kids Cafe provides nutritious meals and snacks after school and during the summer at sites throughout Larimer County. In partnership with the Junior League of Fort Collins, Kids Link supplies packaged snacks to qualifying schools to assist children who display signs of hunger. Backpack, in cooperation with Loveland Rotary McKinney and Longs Peak Rotary, supplies weekend food packs filled with easy to prepare meals and snacks.
In 2016, 138,675 meals and snacks were prepared and served for kids through Kids Cafe. Many kids come to school hungry and have not eaten all weekend or since the day before. By offering snacks to these children, they can ensure that their school day provides all the resources they need beyond basic classroom needs. Snacks are made shelf-stable and nutritiously dense to provide the best resources for kids in need.
Along with Kids Cafe snacks, they also work to provide weekend resources for kids in need. Those that are homeless or near homelessness are given packs of shelf-stable food that they can take home for the weekend. Packs include things like peanut butter and dry cereals to feed kids while they are away from schools, preventing kids from missing vital nutrients and providing the ability to flourish.
Though a few skipped meals may not seem all-around detrimental, research has shown that kids who regularly skip meals tend to miss school more often and are sick more often because they lack nutrients to keep their immune system strong. Children that are food-insecure are far more likely to end up hospitalized and have chronic health problems. For these children it is more common to have oral problems and an overall poorer quality of life, which can cause more issues with their engagement in and out of the classroom. This can cause behavioral issues such as aggression, hyperactivity, fighting, anxiety, mood swings, and bullying.
The Food Bank for Larimer County is dedicated to ending childhood hunger. Over 30% of the food distributed by their Food Share program is provided to children in our community. Many people may not know this, but the Food Bank has a fully functioning kitchen with a volunteer force of 20 people a day. Volunteers make it not only possible, but also more cost effective to prepare meals and snacks from scratch.
Food Bank has been able to expand the number of Kids Cafe sites and children served due to savings generated by scratch cooking. Not only is the food more cost effective, but also more nutritious. Cooking meals and snacks in-house allows for more control over added sugar, salt and fat. For example, muffins are made by substituting some sugar and fat with sugar-free applesauce. Adding applesauce adds more flavor, fiber, moisture and sweetness to the muffins without adding more sugar and oil. Scratch cooking isn’t just reserved for baked goods, even the sauces and salad dressings are made in-house. Making ranch dressing from scratch allows the kitchen to again control the sugar and oil to produce a superior product in both taste and nutrition.
The Food Bank kitchen also utilizes fresh produce whenever possible. Menus are changed and adapted based on the fresh produce available to the kitchen. Another way they are encouraging kids to eat their vegetables is by incorporating veggies into the main meal. If veggies are incorporated into the meal instead of on the side, kids are more likely to give them a try. The food has been well received by the children served at Kids Cafe sites. Menus and meals are developed with kids in mind and staff are also receptive to feedback and make changes when menu items aren’t well received.
While these numbers and realities in our community are daunting, the Food Bank does an excellent job of providing ways to help volunteer, donate, and support their efforts. This is precisely why you should buy tickets to the Front Range Rally. Not only is it a fun way to spend your time drinking unlimited beer and spirits, while eating from various food trucks, 100% of the proceeds goes to the food bank. Thanks to their sponsors, every ticket sold (GA) provides $200 worth of food to a neighbor needing assistance.
This year we’re doing something different on Feasting Fort Collins. As one of their media sponsors helping them to sell more tickets, readers will have an exclusive promo code. This is intended to not only get you there for the fun, but to get YOUR help in bringing your friends and family to the event too!
When you go to purchase your tickets, use the code : FEASTINGFOCO
It will unlock a 4 pack of GA tickets for $120, which is usually priced at $160.
I have six General Admission tickets to giveaway too! Get your entries through this giveaway widget by following me on Experience Fort Collins and Choose Your Own Fort Collins on facebook and Twitter! The winners will be chosen on Thursday night and I will be dropping the tickets off to the winners on Friday.
The more people that go to this event, the more people the food bank will be able to help kids in our community. It really is a great way to offer support.
Where: Loveland Food Share, 2600 N. Lincoln, Loveland, CO
When: 2:30 – 7 PM on Saturday, May 20th, 2017
Tickets: FrontRangeRally.org. Ticket includes admission to festival grounds, food trucks, live music, and UNLIMITED beer sampling. (Food is sold separately.)