Combatting the Enemy: Hunger


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In an effort to alleviate childhood hunger in Prowers County and portions of southeast Colorado, citizens and school and church representatives attended a community workshop sponsored by Colorado No Kid Hungry and LiveWell Prowers County Wednesday, September 25.   

Robin Reichardt of Hunger Free Colorado and Alex Bergland from Americorps/VISTA presented some sobering facts regarding the number of kids up to 18 years who worry about where their next meal is coming from.  The term is food insecurity, and in Prowers County, 2011 statistics show that 13.7% of the low income population or 1,730 people have concerns that they will not have sufficient food for the day, of those, 24%, or 830, are kids below the age of 18. 

What becomes frustrating is that according to the Colorado Department of Education, of the more than 217,000 low-income students in the state who ate free or reduced-price school lunches in 2010-2011, only 87,000 took part in the School Breakfast Program.  Kids are going hungry because federal food and nutritional programs are often under utilized by many of those who are eligible for some benefits. 

The group meeting on Wednesday wanted to be able to bring this matter to community representatives and volunteers to seek a solution and set up a local system in which more food is made available to the children.  The program would run through the year, especially in the summer season.  Reichardt said there are fewer restrictions then for providing meals, so churches, schools or community centers can serve meals from an eligible area and be reimbursed by the USDA. 

Now that local schools are working on a four day week, the low-cost breakfasts or lunches are no longer available.  Lori Hammer from Project HOPE said her organization recognizes the need to provide some type of snacks for those students to show up at the Lincoln School in Lamar for the classes held on Fridays.  The HOPE group started a community garden this past spring to plant vegetables which can be used by the students in their nutrition and cooking classes. 

Reichardt said the Child and Adult Care Food Program offers federal funding to reimburse afterschool programs in low income areas that serve a meal or a snack to kids up to 18 years.  Some other means of providing reimbursement comes from the rural division of the USDA Strike Force and even AARP has a program to reimburse volunteers for some of their costs and time. 

What is needed locally is a central kitchen location that could produce hot meals as opposed to ready-to-eat snacks off the shelf.  The Welcome Home Child Center said they’d explore the possibilities of using their kitchen, but qualified nutrition cooks are required to prepare the meals.   Access to the kids is also another block.  The means of getting the kids to the food, or vice-versa would be another concern. 

These will be some of the areas members of the group will review to develop a plan for either later this year or early into 2014.  Representatives were on hand from Lamar, Wiley, Granada, Holly, Ordway, Prowers County Commissioner Wendy Buxton-Andrade and La Junta. Additional information is available at livewellprowerscounty1@gmailcom.

By Russ Baldwin




Filed Under: BusinessChurchesCitycommunityCountyEconomyEducationFeaturedGranadaHealthHollyLamarProwers CountySchoolWileyYouth


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