Nearly 400,000 Colorado children participate in school meal programs, more than 80 percent of whom receive their meals for free or at a reduced price. For these children, school meals are often their only source of balanced nutrition. So what happens to these children when school lets out for the summer?

According to the Food Research and Action Center, for every 100 Colorado children who receive free or reduced price school lunches, a mere seven participate in federally funded summer nutrition programs.

And all too often, where childhood hunger appears, childhood obesity follows. Families with limited resources frequently turn to less expensive, less nutritious foods; hunger interferes with children’s eating habits and metabolic rates.

It is vitally important that we address this gap and provide more Colorado children with access to healthy foods during summer months. For this reason, LiveWell Colorado is proud to support the efforts of our partners, Hunger Free Colorado and the Denver Metro Mayors Caucus, to increase the number, visibility and accessibility of Denver metro summer food sites. Here are just a few of the ways we are involved.

  • We have engaged the grassroots reach of our LiveWell Communities to support Hunger Free Colorado’s efforts to increase usage of federal food programs and provide every Coloradan with access to adequate, nutritional food. This summer, community coordinators will help to promote summer food sites in their regions by distributing Hunger Free Colorado’s outreach materials in their communities.
  • Via our 2011 Health and Wellness Initiative with the Denver Metro Mayor’s Caucus, we have encouraged metro mayors not only to get involved with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Cities and Towns campaign, but also to work with Hunger Free Colorado to include summer food promotion in their Let’s Move projects.

Although schools may not be in session during the summer months, the need to provide healthy and nutritious meals to Colorado’s children does not take a break. I look forward to continued partnership with Hunger Free Colorado and the Denver Metro Mayors Caucus and to the work of our LiveWell Communities to ensure that every Colorado child has access to healthy foods all year round. For more information about summer food in Colorado, visit www.summerfoodcolorado.org.