Weekend program provides hundreds of meals for kids
Post Independent Correspondent
Many students in Garfield County communities get nutrition assistance through the school week, but the Totes For Hope project works to ensure that they get a good lunch on the weekends, too.
New Castle’s River Center nonprofit is in its sixth year participating in the project, providing 176 meals per week for students in New Castle and Silt schools, with other groups providing 400 more meals for Rifle and Glenwood Springs students.
“The purpose of it is for them to have one to two different meals for the weekend,” said Heather Paulson, project leader for the River Center, “so that the kids are getting that nutrition the whole week.”
Each Totes For Hope meal bag consists of six to eight nonperishable items provided by Food Bank of the Rockies. One bag includes a protein, grain, fruit, vegetable and a treat. Meal plans change weekly in order to provide a variety of lunches to students.
“We also have a food pantry at Coal Ridge High School that the kids are able to go into,” Paulson said.
The River Center delivers meal bags to four different school locations in New Castle and Silt each week. Two other project locations in the area are The Pointe Church of Glenwood Springs, which caters to Glenwood Springs schools; and Reach Out Colorado, which delivers to Rifle schools.
“We heard about the need in Glenwood after coming to volunteer in New Castle from time to time,” said Janice Pursley, project leader for The Pointe Church of Glenwood Springs. “We were really excited that this was an opportunity for us to give back.”
Volunteers at each location meet weekly for approximately an hour to prep and deliver a specified number of meal bags. The number of bags is determined by a list of qualified students given to project leaders by school counselors.
The lunch program is available throughout the school year and into summer vacation for all three locations.
“We go into the summertime with the Summer Advantage Program,” said Pursley. “There are four weeks there that we take bags over.”
“We also provide bags over in the New Castle and Silt libraries for the summer,” Paulson said, “and we have partnered with the Youth For Christ Sports’ Camp.”
In efforts to expand the program and its outreach, Totes For Hope on Feb. 24 began a “Meal Monkey” truck, a collaboration with LIFT-UP food pantry.
“We will be trying it out Fridays at noon at Burning Mountain Park,” Paulson said. “It’ll be something they can recognize as a safe thing that they can go to and get food from.”
Project leaders in Rifle have seen an increase in meal bags, distributing 310 meals per week. However, New Castle and Glenwood Springs organizers have seen a decrease in need and a positive impact on the community and its families.
“When we started, the number of meals we provided was 145,” Pursley said. “Now it’s 96.”
“I think it’s great for the community,” said Mari Riddile, project volunteer and wife of New Castle Mayor Art Riddile. “There are so many kids who are hungry when they come to school on Mondays, and this is a way to combat that.”
Leaders encourage the community to reach out for volunteer opportunities with the project. Those interested in getting involved can do so by contacting project locations in their area.
“We are always looking for volunteers,” said Dave Botroff, project leader for Reach Out Colorado. “People can also donate money.”
For more information, go to foodbankrockies.org.
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