Vail Daily column: Reaching out to our kids
Fifteen thousand meals. Let that number sink in for a moment. That’s the estimated number of free summer lunches that will be provided to children and youth ages 0-18 through a new initiative starting this summer in Eagle County designed to bring nutritious and healthy meals to our community.
Funded through federal dollars, the Summer Foods Service Program is the first of what we believe will be many initiatives emerging from the InteGreat! Coalition: A partnership of parents, students, and 28 organizations in Eagle County spanning the private and public sectors. Eagle County Schools is proud to be actively participating in the InteGreat! Coalition.
The vision of InteGreat! is bold and straightforward: An inclusive community in which all children are loved. Where kids are safe, engaged, nourished, healthy, valued, hopeful, empowered, learning, and are successful in life.
By design, the vision of InteGreat! is not focused on one income level or one demographic. Instead, the group envisions a community where all children are in an environment where they can thrive and grow.
Toward that end, the summer lunch program is open to any child and there are no additional qualifications or conditions. Children and young people can attend any school (or be home schooled) during the school year, come from any background, and speak any language. In addition, lunches are also available for adults in our community for $4 per meal.
Open community sites will be at Eagle Valley High School and Avon Elementary School. Eagle Valley High School will serve lunch to students, Monday through Thursday, from 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. and community members can drop by to pick up a lunch from 12:15-12:30 p.m. In Avon, lunches are available on those same days for students from 12:00-12:15 p.m. and open to the community from 12:15-12:30 p.m. A site will also be in operation at Homestake Peak School, but it is open only for students attending a number of summer programs at that school.
The Summer Foods Service Program is about much more than feeding the community. Staffed by both Eagle County Schools Food Services employees and an army of volunteers, it’s an example of how a community pulls together to solve a problem. It will create a setting four days a week for six weeks, where community organizations can pull together and make sure any need a child in our community has is connected with supports from an organization.
InteGreat! approaches needs in our community from an asset frame, as opposed to a deficit one. That is, instead of whining and fretting about what our community doesn’t have, we believe that we have extraordinary capacity to do good for our kids already. Our challenge, then, is getting all of these supporting organizations to work as a system and pull together on behalf of our kids.
The summer lunch program is an example of this. The lunch program will feed kids taking part in the Youth Foundation/Vail Valley Foundation’s Summer PwrHrs for elementary and middle school students (focused on science, tech, engineering, arts, and mathematics), Great Start pre-school educational programming, and Eagle County Schools’ summer programming for high school students.
At each food service location, information will be available about support programs within Eagle County. Numerous philanthropic, nonprofit, for-profit, and governmental support organizations will set up information stations during the lunch service times so they can raise engagement and awareness for the services they offer.
The goal of this approach is simple: Make sure that every family in need in our community is connected with a support that is available. Really, this is the big idea driving the InteGreat! Coalition.
The Summer Foods Service Program is an example of our community reaching out and putting its arms around the children. It’s a significant first step, but it’s just a beginning. Until we reach that point where every child in our community is safe, engaged, nourished, healthy, valued, hopeful, empowered, learning, successful, and loved, we will have work to do.
Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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