Rifle senior helps feed classmates through summer
For many students throughout western Garfield County, while summer break brings months of exciting activities and adventures, it also comes with uncomfortable challenges.
The 2,532 students on free or reduced lunch in the Garfield School District Re-2 may not have any way to get lunch if school is not in session. Fortunately, they have the mobile lunch program.
The program began Monday after school, in partnership with LIFT-UP, with lunches getting delivered to four set locations around Rifle: Davidson Park, Joyce Park, Cottonwood Park and Centennial Park. Lunch is offered Monday through Thursday.
In 2012, Re-2 switched to a four-day school week. Students on free or reduced lunch needed lunch on Fridays, not just during the summer but throughout the school year, and Rifle High School senior Miguel Gonzalez came up with a solution.
He manages the Rifle Friday Mobile Lunch program, known as Meal Monkey, which keeps the district’s program going on Fridays. This summer, that means that lunches are available Monday-Friday in Rifle.
“We coordinate with the district, LIFT-UP provides the food and kids and parents come and grab them on Friday at around 10 to 12,” Gonzalez explained. “I do it because I like knowing that I’m helping my community and those around me.”
LIFT-UP provides the food for the summer program, which delivers around 120 lunches a day. He delivers the food to the same locations as the Monday through Thursday program.
“We started in November 2015 and choose the locations based on the Preschool on Wheels program,” said Kim Loving, executive director of Rifle LIFT-UP. “We hear from parents all the time about how helpful it is.”
Carissa Berret, office manager at Rifle LIFT-UP, said she tries to provide a nutritious lunch with one fruit, vegetable, protein, dairy and more.
From January to May the program delivered 1,583 meals to students and any child younger than 18 who came by.
“We are so appreciative of the partnership with LIFT-UP to provide lunches on Fridays and what an amazing kid,” said Theresa Hamilton, director of districtwide services for Re-2. “It’s a great program and a fantastic service for students. It’s one of those community services that’s so necessary with a four-day school week.”
The Friday program, with the help of LIFT-UP and New Castle River Center Director Heather Paulson, expanded to Silt and New Castle in March and continued this summer, delivering lunches to kids at Burning Mountain Park in New Castle and Heron’s Nest in Silt.
“I’ve been thinking for ways to do a mobile food truck, and this is just a great partnership, and we are really excited about the opportunity, and families have been greatly appreciative,” Paulson explained. “We would love to expand the food program for students Monday through Thursday.”
Hamilton said that expanding the mobile lunch program into Silt and New Castle is something that has been discussed from day one and something that the district will continue to work toward.
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