Mobile lunch program is on the move |

Mobile lunch program is on the move

McKinely Rosales hands a milk carton to Catalina Olivas in Joyce Park on Friday, Nov. 18. The milk was part of a free lunch that is provided to children at three locations in Rifle on most Fridays.
Ryan Hoffman / Citizen Telegram |

A mobile lunch program designed to provide lunches on Fridays for eligible students ages 18 years or younger in Rifle is up and running again this year after a trial run that started last year in November. Coordinators say it has been a successful year so far, and they hope to make improvements and expand in the future.

“It’s been a great program; I think it’s been really well received,” said Kimberly Loving, executive director of LIFT-UP. “It’s gotten a great community response.”

A collaboration of coordinators from Garfield School District Re-2, LiveWell and the nonprofit LIFT-UP come together to help provide healthy lunches for eligible students. Student volunteers from Rifle High School prepare the lunches on Thursdays. The lunches are then picked up Friday morning, delivered to the program’s three designated locations and served from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

“Healthy food access is one of our primary goals, said Dana Wood, LiveWell Garfield County coordinator. “Looking at the free and reduced lunch rates particularly in this community, there was quite a bit of need, on top of filling the gap on Fridays.”

Garfield Re-2, which spans from Rifle to New Castle, moved to a four-day school week as a cost saving measure starting with he 2012-13 school year.

In the lunch program’s first year, it successfully served around 1,500 lunches to children. As of this year it has been so successful that amount has nearly doubled.

“To date, we have served 2,841 lunches,” Loving said.

Children currently meet to grab lunches at Davidson Park, Cottonwood Springs Park and Joyce Park in Rifle. There are hopes to expand to other locations such as Parachute, Silt and New Castle, but that has been a challenge According to Loving, the program is hoping to expand in other ways as well.

“We would like to eventually get an actual food truck, so we can also serve warm meals instead of just all cold,” said Loving.

While the program has received an excellent response, it has had some challenges. Coordinators said they saw a decline in attendance if students were not given timely notification beforehand.

“Communication has been one of the biggest challenges,” said Wood. “I think it’s just a matter of keeping it in top of mind for everybody every week.”

In a separate effort, a summer mobile lunch program was also available for the students this past summer. Execution did not quite go as expected, due to some communication and timing issues.

“Over the summer … they went to the Rifle pool.” Wood said. “Some of the times might have been a little early for lunch … I think they weren’t there at the right time to catch that audience.”

The summer program is expected to be available to students next year as well, with improvements.

Coordinators have encouraged the community to reach out and get involved with the program efforts. Those looking to help can contact Loving at LIFT-UP for information on how to do so.

“We are looking for volunteers to help deliver those lunches. Anybody with a good driving record, we can put them on our insurance and they can help us drive and deliver those. … Volunteers are our backbone,” Loving said.

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