LIFT-UP of Routt County food bank and case manager Sherri McKnight poses with a bag of food that will be given to a child of a low-income family. LIFT-UP of Routt County and Totally Kids have launched free summer lunch programs to combat child hunger.

Photo by Scott Franz

LIFT-UP of Routt County food bank and case manager Sherri McKnight poses with a bag of food that will be given to a child of a low-income family. LIFT-UP of Routt County and Totally Kids have launched free summer lunch programs to combat child hunger.

Routt County meal programs aimed at fighting child hunger

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At a glance

■ School-age children can qualify for LIFT-UP of Routt County’s free summer lunch program if they are enrolled in their school district’s free and reduced-cost lunch program, if their family receives food stamps or if their family income falls below 185 percent of the Annual Poverty Guidelines. To apply for the program, call 970-870-0727 or stop by LIFT-UP on Curve Court in Steamboat.

■ Totally Kids is providing free meals to children ages 1 to 18 regardless of their families’ income levels. Breakfast is served from 8:30 to 9 a.m., and lunch is served from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. every weekday until Aug. 17 at Hayden Valley Elementary School. Adults can purchase breakfast for $2 and lunch for $3.

— Two local nonprofits have launched new programs to make sure school-age children don’t go hungry this summer.

LIFT-UP of Routt County food bank and case manager Sherri McKnight said Monday that the goal of her nonprofit’s new summer meals program is simple but important.

“We want to make sure no child goes hungry and take care of the kiddos,” McKnight said near a table of red bags that each contained five days' worth of lunches for children to eat.

On Friday, 30 children from the Steamboat Springs area came to LIFT-UP to pick up the bags. McKnight said the lunch bags that are filled with sandwich fixings, chips, milk and other nutritious snacks will be available every week until Aug. 17 to children of low-income families.

The program is serving 39 children in Steamboat, 10 in Hayden and 16 in South Routt.

McKnight said child hunger in Routt County is a broader concern than many realize.

“We still have a problem with jobs for people in this area. No jobs means no income, which means no food,” she said. “This program helps the family by giving their child a nutritious meal. It places a real hardship on a family when their child goes without lunch.”

All Routt County school districts had more of their students receive free and reduced lunches this school year. The Steamboat Springs School District saw its numbers jump by 102 students this past school year compared with the previous one.

Steamboat started the 2010-11 school year with 280 students, or 13 percent of its enrollment, in the free and reduced-cost lunch program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program. This past school year, 382 students, or 17 percent, were enrolled.

When the enrollment numbers were released in October, Steamboat Springs Superintendent Brad Meeks and Nutritional Services Director Max Huppert both attributed the unprecedented expansion of the program to shortfalls in the economy.

This school year, a family of three in Colorado had to make less than $24,089 for its children to receive free lunches or less than $34,281 to qualify for reduced-cost lunches.

School-age children qualify for LIFT-UP’s summer lunch program if their family receives food stamps, their family’s income falls below 185 percent of the Annual Poverty Guidelines or their child qualifies to receive free or reduced-cost meals during the school year.

The lunch program is open to children across Routt County with lunches available for pickup in Steamboat, Hayden and Oak Creek.

McKnight said a family of four would satisfy the poverty requirement if their combined annual income is less than $42,000.

Meanwhile in Hayden, Totally Kids is feeding free meals to an average of 30 children each weekday with a program sponsored by the USDA and the Colorado Department of Education.

Totally Kids Director Carolyn Gregory said Hayden qualified for the free meal program because the school district’s free and reduced-cost lunch program enrollment surpassed 50 percent at the elementary and middle schools.

The free meals are available to children ages 1 to 18 regardless of their families’ income levels. Breakfast is served from 8:30 to 9 a.m., and lunch is served from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. every weekday until Aug. 17 at Hayden Valley Elementary School. Adults can purchase breakfast for $2 and lunch for $3.

“We’re so excited to bring this program to Hayden, where there is really a need for it,” Gregory said. “It’s a good way for kids to still get a free, nutritious meal during the summer.”

Routt County free and reduced lunch enrollment, 2007-12

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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