Community lunches, snacks begin at Boys & Girls Club | CraigDailyPress.com

Community lunches, snacks begin at Boys & Girls Club

Meals at Boys & Girls Club — and later at Sandrock Elementary School — are open to all

Michael Neary

— On the first day of the Summer Food Service Program at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, Zeke Roberts was excited.

"It's a kid paradise," said Zeke, who's going into second grade at East Elementary School.

About 60 children feasted on green chili burritos, fruit cocktail, carrots and other selections Monday at the Boys & Girls Club.

The Summer Food Service Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, features a lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, with a snack from 3:30 to 4 p.m. It's open to all families, whether or not they belong to the Boys & Girls Club.

Children up through age 18 may eat for free, and adults pay $3.75 for a lunch.

The lunches and snacks will be served on weekdays at the club through August 19. Later in the summer, starting on July 11, meals are also scheduled to be served at Sandrock Elementary School.

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The program is administered by the Colorado Department of Education, and Judy Baker, director of food services for the Moffat County School District, is coordinating the program locally. Moffat County School District is a sponsor of the program.

Baker said the meals program follows regulations similar to those in place during the school year, and she noted an increasing emphasis — from the USDA — on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other nutritious foods. For the most part, she said, children have welcomed the nutritious selections.

"It's been great," Baker said. "At other schools, you read in the paper where the kids are throwing the vegetables away. Certainly we have kids that aren't totally on board, but they actually do a wonderful job with selecting lots of different things you wouldn't expect."

Baker said the summer meals program will use a rotating menu, with foods such as green chili burritos — Monday's entrée — Bosco sticks, chicken fajitas, and a number of sandwiches on whole grain buns. She said there would also be chef salads, garbanzo beans, fruit and vegetable cups and other items.

The summer program has been growing in Moffat County and throughout the state, said Ashley Moen, summer food service program administrator for the Colorado Department of Education. In Moffat County, 7,062 meals were served last summer, compared to 6,176 in 2013. In the entire state, the number of meals expanded from 1.3 million to 1.5 million during that time, and sites grew from 496 to 548.

Moen said she anticipated about 570 sites this summer.

"I've heard from sponsors that there are certain pockets where they have been seeing an increasing need," Moen said, adding that sponsors have also been identifying more areas in need each year. She said the program has also increased its use of "mobile feeding," which includes delivery directly to neighborhoods.

Dana Duran, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, emphasized the connections that can develop during the meals.

"There's community that goes along with the meals," said. "People share and participate."

The need for such a program is something Baker has observed while the school year is in session.

"During the school year, we have a lot of children that depend on the food service program for their meals," she said.

Drawing from 2012-2014 statistics from the USDA, a report from Hunger Free Colorado says that "nearly one in seven Coloradans struggle with hunger, facing time when there is not enough money to buy food."

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or mneary@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.