WECMRD, Trinity Church partner with InteGreat to host summer lunch programs for families in need | VailDaily.com

WECMRD, Trinity Church partner with InteGreat to host summer lunch programs for families in need

Summer lunch program participants enjoy their meal and some fun.

EAGLE COUNTY — There's nothing better than being a kid who has weeks of summer vacation ahead — that is, unless you happen to be a kid who can't depend on having something to eat at lunchtime.

According to data compiled by the Eagle River Youth Coalition, in three out of five elementary schools in Eagle County, 70 percent of children depend on federal free and reduced lunch to make it through the day. As a result, 150,000 meals go missing each summer when school cafeterias close and family expenses increase. Nearly 16 percent of children in the Vail Valley are food insecure — they worry about where their next meal will come from or if it will be enough to fill their tummies. Children who experience food insecurity are five times more likely to encounter behavioral problems and suffer from depression.

But since 2015, there has been a local solution for this problem. A coalition of local groups called InteGreat offers a summer lunch program to provide relief for families struggling to put food on the table, while also increasing kids' access to fresh food. What's more, for the 2018 summer, the program will feature lunch with a side of play.

Food and fun

Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District and Trinity Church have stepped up to support InteGreat by hosting the summer lunch program for families in need. WECMRD will be hosting lunch four days a week at the Gypsum Recreation Center, and Trinity Church has organized sites in Eagle River Village and the Aspen Mobile Home Park in Avon. Eagle County Schools will provide the lunches for all the locations through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program supported by the Colorado Department of Education and Hunger Free Colorado.

"As the newest member of the InteGreat coalition, WECMRD was ready to get involved. We are always looking for ways to expand our services to best fit the needs of our district. The accessibility and size of the Gypsum Rec Center facility, coupled with our specially trained staff, will be the perfect home for the summer lunch program," said Janet Bartnik, WECMRD executive director.

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"We were thrilled when Matt Wyatt with Trinity Church offered to host locations in the Avon/Edwards areas to further expand the reach of this year's program."

WECMRD also wanted to make sure that local kids and families embrace the lunch program as a fun summertime offering. While the summer lunch program serves food to those who need it and is working toward decreasing food insecurities in Eagle County, it does more than offer a healthy meal. Families can enjoy the opportunity to connect with others, which strengthens community ties. Kids will also have an opportunity to participate in recreational activities that pair with a nutritious meal.

According to Scott Robinson, WECMRD marketing and communications manager, recreation district staff will organize activities during the lunchtime session that will range from water battles to soccer skills sessions.

"This is another example of how WECMRD is re-imagining recreation and finding new and positive ways to impact our district," Robinson said.

As for summer lunch program qualifications, there really aren't any. The program is available for all school-age kids.

"Anyone who walks in can enjoy a healthy meal and some fun activities," Robinson said.

To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/summerlunch/

Where to go …

Gypsum Recreation Center

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday from June 12 through Aug. 31

Where: 50 Lundgren Blvd., Gypsum.

Eagle River Village in Edwards

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday from June 11 through Aug. 31

Where: 32700 U.S. Highway 6, Edwards. Monday through Wednesday and Friday lunches will be at the community center. Thursday lunches will be at playground on south side of Highway 6

Aspen Mobile Home Village at Avon

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays from June 13 through Aug. 29.

Where: 901 W Beaver Creek Blvd., Avon.