Garfield Re-2 not monkeying around with nutritious food
New Meal Monkey truck making the rounds in Garfield County
Drivers in the Garfield Re-2 School District may be doing double takes with the roll-out of the new Meal Monkey food truck.
Thanks to $57,800 in grants from the Western Colorado Community Foundation (WCCF) and their donors, Garfield Re-2 purchased a food truck earlier this year and unveiled the truck with its Meal Monkey branding at the Garfield Re-2 School Board meeting on Tuesday, September 24. Food Bank of the Rockies contributed a $10,000 grant to the project.
The truck will be used to support Garfield Re-2’s mobile Meal Monkey summer nutrition program, Lift-Up’s Friday nutrition program, and special events.
Meal Monkey is a collaboration between the Garfield Re-2 School District and Lift-Up. The Summer Nutrition program is part of the USDA federally-reimbursable school nutrition program and provides any child 18-years of age or younger a nutritious lunch. It initially launched in Rifle in 2015 with support from Garfield Healthy Communities Coalition. Garfield Re-2 provides meals Monday through Thursday during the summer while Lift-Up provides a free lunch to any child on Fridays – the day Garfield Re-2 School District does not have school. Both programs stop at Cottonwood Park, Davidson Park, Joyce Park, and Centennial Park in Rifle.
For the last several years, staff has prepared meals in a Garfield Re-2 school kitchen and then delivered the meals to a variety of locations using a cargo van. As the program grew, Garfield Re-2 Nutrition Services Director Mary McPhee knew changes were necessary.
“We did not have enough space or resources to meet the demands that we continue to see,” explained McPhee. “When WCCF offered us support for a food truck, it seemed like a dream come true. The truck will create many opportunities to grow the program and develop new opportunities for our Nutrition Services team.”
With the commitment of funding, McPhee was able to find a gently used food truck on the front range from Potatoes USA – a 2016 Ford F59 with just about 5,000 miles.
“This truck was a great find. It has all of the refrigeration/freezing capacity to meet our needs, equipment to support all of the health codes, and a fire suppression system as well,” she explained. “It would not have been possible without the support of the Western Colorado Community Foundation and Colorado Food Bank of the Rockies.”
This summer, Garfield Re-2 expanded the Meal Monkey summer nutrition program to the Silt and New Castle communities Mondays through Thursdays with The River Center providing meals on Fridays. The expansion in service saw an associated increase in meals served from 4,425 in 2018 to 5,275 in 2019.
“We know that there is a lot of food insecurity in the valley. We also know that because of our geography, it is difficult to get kids meals when we ask them to come to a central location. The Meal Monkey Summer Nutrition program brings nutritious meals to any child 18-and-under. We are so excited about the possibilities our new equipment brings to our school nutrition program in general, and the Meal Monkey program specifically,” said McPhee.
“The Western Colorado Community Foundation is thrilled to provide grant funding for the Meal Monkey food truck. Going mobile during the school year with Friday lunches is a great way to reach children when Garfield Re-2 is not in session,” said WCCF Program Associate Jody Valente. “For the last several years, Garfield Re-2 and their partners have been dedicated to ensuring that children have access to nutritious meals over the summer, where fun activities are also offered with community agencies. The Meal Monkey provides more than simply a meal; it provides a welcoming atmosphere and helps kids go back to school, ready to learn.”
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Roaring Fork Schools volunteers who have already completed a comparable background check through an approved entity would be good to go.