Over 9 Million Meals Distributed to Feed Families Hit by Natural Disasters

Colorado Feeding Kids gather volunteers to raise funds and distribute nutrient-dense family meal packs to those in need
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After packing of food boxes, these volunteers are all smiles. | Photos by Pamela Cress

The numbers tell an eye-opening story about hunger in Colorado: 474,420 individuals struggle to access nutritious food and, of that number, 141,570 are children; 16 percent of Colorado children are not getting adequate nutrition due to family financial hardships; 20 percent of adults surveyed by Hunger Free Colorado in 2021 reported having to regularly cut back on or skip meals because they didn’t have the money to buy food; and 7.5 percent of older adults responding to a 2022 report on the State of Senior Hunger in America were forced to choose between buying groceries or purchasing the medications they needed to survive.

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It’s all hands on deck on “packing row,” as they call it.

Fortunately, organizations like Colorado Feeding Kids are there to help. Since 2007, this all-volunteer nonprofit has packed and distributed over 9 million meals that are distributed locally at no charge to recipients by partner food banks, churches and schools. In addition, meals are sent to cities here and abroad that have been hit by natural disasters, fire and war, and to Christian World Outreach for its work in combating hunger
in developing countries.

Colorado Feeding Kids was formed by the South Denver Kiwanis Club. “We were looking for a community project that would have an appreciable impact on the food insecurity we were seeing in our local schools,” says Joe LaVigne, president of the Colorado Feeding Kids board and a Kiwanis Club member. “From there our efforts grew.”

Money raised by Colorado Feeding Kids is used to purchase and ship nutrient-dense family meal packs that provide a three-day supply of food created in collaboration with Iowa State University’s food science department.

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A group of volunteers wave while packing up delicious food boxes.

Once the ingredients arrive in Colorado, they are stored at the Food Exchange Resource Network warehouse in Englewood until a cadre of CFK volunteers gathers on the first and third Saturday afternoons of each month to assemble and pack as many as 25,000 meals in one session. A family-pack meal, for example, is distributed at the end of the week through school backpack programs. It contains six servings each of cinnamon-apple oatmeal, pasta with tomato-basil sauce, macaroni and cheese and assorted snacks—“Enough to get the family through the weekend,” LaVigne says. “The packs fit discreetly into a backpack, so that the student receiving it isn’t shamed by having everyone see that he or she needs to receive free food. And if the student doesn’t have a backpack, we provide one.”

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Handing out boxes of food for the weekend as part of the CFK backpack program.

Other meal packs can contain rice, dehydrated vegetables, beans and seasonings that cook up in casserole form. “The meals are both well-received and easy to prepare,” LaVigne notes.

Bulk purchasing enables CFK to put together a meal pack for about 50 cents. However, with an ever-increasing need, fundraising efforts are being stepped up.

“Our meals go to almost every school in the region,” LaVigne says. “You might not think they’d be needed in affluent areas like Cherry Creek and Highlands Ranch, but they are.” And, with monthly SNAP benefits being reduced this year, partner food banks and churches are seeing a steep rise in requests for food.

2830 S. Zuni St., Englewood 80110

Joanne Davidson, a frequent contributor to Colorado Expression, firmly believes that no person in
a land of plenty like America should have to worry about where his next meal is coming from.

Categories: Community/Society