Summertime is more fun for children when they are fed |

Summertime is more fun for children when they are fed

AVON — The easiest thing you can do for hungry kids is feed them, Sara Amberg said patiently.

And with that unassailable logic, the 2016 summer lunch program provided by InteGreat!, a collaboration of 30 local nonprofits and agencies, started Monday.

In last year's inaugural launch, two kids showed up for opening day in Gypsum. This year they ran about 100 times that, just at Eagle Valley High School. Programs are also being run at Avon Elementary School and Berry Creek Middle School. The program is part of the Eagle County Health Improvement Plan for 2017.

"This helps us get through the summer and lets people know we have each others' backs," Amberg said.

Summer lunch is expanding to serve any child up to 18 years old.

Adults can also have lunch and are asked for a small donation, whatever you can afford up to $4.

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Stealth Health

Jennifer Gonzalez, 9, was among the lunch bunch at Eagle Valley High School. The healthy food was OK and the cheeseburgers were good, but not as good as her mom's, she said.

Your powers of observation don't have to be all that stellar to notice younger kids munching carrot sticks and fruit, while high school kids had to be sent back to balance out their cheeseburgers and fries with some fruits and vegetables.

The meals are all made from scratch as part of the school district's Fresh Approach program and include fresh milk, fruits and vegetables, hamburgers with whole wheat buns. The rest of this week is spaghetti, grilled chicken breasts and homemade whole wheat pizza.

Stealth health is exactly what it sounds like. In preparing meals, cooks in the school district kitchens sneak healthy stuff in, like vegetables into the pasta sauce.

Jack Wickum graduated Battle Mountain High School in 2015, and this is one of his summer jobs. He just finished his first year at the University of Denver and wants to be a teacher. He is dressed for success in a T-shirt emblazoned with "Feed America." A crew of Americorps VISTA volunteers are also helping run the program.

Summer is expensive

Summer is expensive for families and can be isolating for some, said Melisa Rewold-Thuon, director of the Vail Valley Foundation's YouthPower365.

"This is a great opportunity for kids and their caregivers to get together with others from their area for a healthy lunch and to participate in some fun kid-centered activities."

InteGreat! launched its summer lunch program in 2015. During last year's pilot, 7,703 meals were served at school sites, feeding an estimated 715 children, who received a fresh, hot meal each day with the assistance of 102 volunteers and 22 organizations.

"InteGreat! is not just one person. It's a movement," Amberg said.

Rewold-Thuon said more than 600 students in YouthPower365 summer programs will participate in the summer lunch program each day.

In three of five elementary schools in Eagle County, more than 61 percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, the threshold for students being considered "at-risk."

"Summer should be a fun and enriching time for our kids," said Jason Glass, superintendent of Eagle County Schools. "But for many, it represents a time when children are at the greatest risk of hunger, losing access to school meals and other support systems we have in place at our schools during the rest of the year. For the second year InteGreat! has provided this valuable Summer Lunch program which benefits the entire community."

The Food Bank of the Rockies is helping run the neighborhood programs, reaching kids in pockets that don't really have any way to get anywhere. The county's ECO Transit is running buses for the program.

Along with food, Starting Hearts will do a CPR class and fire trucks will show up occasionally. The Literacy Project is providing books to kids to read for the summer.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

About the summer lunch Program

• The InteGreat! summer lunch program is a collaboration of 30 local organizations and agencies, including Eagle County Schools, the Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365, Vail Valley Salvation Army, Americorps VISTA and the USDA.

• Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

• There are three school sites: Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum, Avon Elementary School and Berry Creek Middle School in Edwards.

• Sites are being added in Dotsero and Red Cliff.

• It’s open to all kids younger than 18 for free, and adults can eat for a donation.

• Eagle County’s ECO Transit is adding a free bus line from Dotsero in June, and free bus stops in the Edwards area through the summer.

• Parents and organizations have been recruited to run activities for children.

• The school district is picking up some of the tab. There’s also a USDA grant, and private donors fill in the gaps.

• To volunteer, email