AURORA | Frosted Flakes and other sugary cereals are usually the go-to lunch options for Denver resident Rhonda Gray’s seven grandchildren when they’re on summer break.
That’s why Gray was elated June 5 as she watched them eat boxed lunches that included fresh fruits, vegetables, fruit juice and yogurt at New Freedom Park near East 13th Avenue and Xenia Street.
“We really appreciate this,” she said.
The free lunches are a part of the Lunchbox Express program, a partnership between the Colfax Community Network and several nonprofit organizations, that aims to serve lunch during summer months to 1,000 children each day at six locations in Aurora and two in Denver. About 200 children attended the program’s opening day June 5 at New Freedom Park.
“Every child receives a lunch meal, and if they want seconds, they can get it,” Jennifer Herrera, executive director of the Colfax Community Network, said of the program, which will run through Aug. 30.
The children who participate in the program are those who rely on school lunches and would otherwise go hungry or eat unhealthy foods during summer months when they’re not in school.
Children ages 18 and younger can visit any of the eight sites offering free lunches during weekdays, but they have to eat the food on-site, Herrera said. About 2,000 pounds of food is donated every week as part of the program.
The boxed lunches include organic produce, yogurt, nuts and seeds and canned meats.
“For us, it’s really about connecting these children to a community that cares about them and letting them know there are adults that want them to have a healthy and happy summer,” Herrera said.
Colfax Community Network is also providing low income families with produce and bread that they’re allowed to take home.
Colfax Community Network is a nonprofit organization that educates low-income families living in motels and apartments along the Colfax corridor about helpful community services. The organization launched the summer lunch program last year in response to a growing need to feed hungry children in Aurora.
According to Colfax Community Network, there were about 15,000 children in need of summer lunches last year, within a two-mile radius of the organization’s offices at 1585 Kingston St. But the organization’s summer lunch program was only feeding about 140 children per week.
“We rotated sites throughout the city so we could feed more kids, but we realized there was a greater need than we could fulfill with a small organization,” Herrera said.
Over the past several months, members of the Colfax Community Network solicited help from churches, local governments, food banks and nonprofit organizations across the Denver metro area to help grow the program.
With the goal of feeding 1,000 children per day, five days a week this summer, Herrera said the Lunchbox Express program will make a huge impact in Aurora and Denver neighborhoods.
Before each afternoon lunch offering, volunteers from local nonprofit organizations will also offer health and wellness-themed activities.
Other partners in the Lunchbox Express program include Hunger Free Colorado, Food Bank of the Rockies, Mosaic Church, Martin Luther King Jr. Library and St. Pius X Catholic Parish.
For more information or to donate or volunteer, call the Colfax Community Network at 303-360-9175.
Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or [email protected]
The following Lunchbox Express sites are open to the public:
9898 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora
May 28-August 5
New Freedom Park
8890 E. 13th Ave, Denver
May 28-August 5
Shadow Tree Apartments
1800 Billings St., Aurora
May 28-August 5
St. Pius X Catholic Parish
13670 E. 13th Place, Aurora
June 10-Aug 3
Villa Verde Apartments
1640 Alton St., Aurora
June 10-Aug 5
Montclair United Methodist Church
1195 Newport, Denver, June 17-Aug 28
Spencer Garrett Park
16th Ave and Joliet Aurora, CO 80010
June 17-Aug 5