Summer Food Service Program: Helping Communities Across Denver

IMG_0100Working at Hunger Free Colorado with the Summer Food Service Program has led me to parts of Denver that shed light on the complexities of our neighborhoods and the immense reach of schools and community organizations. I, for one, would not expect a church to be located inside a building situated between a cell phone store and a bank, but here in Five Points lies one of the true gems of the neighborhood; City Life Church is a branch of the non-profit Urban Outreach Denver, which targets the toughest neighborhoods in Denver to provide much needed resources and support. Early this summer, City Life staff and volunteers campaigned around Five Points to inform residents about a free day care program they operate in the summer, as well as the free community suppers that are held on Thursday nights. This is City Life’s first year offering such programs, and as founder Isaac Olivarez expressed, “people have been asking us when we are going to have church on Sundays, but for us this is church Monday – Friday. We wanted to be the church before we started having church.”  And that is exactly what they have done. Since June 3rd, staff have seen over 50 unique kids come through the doors to play games, be dazzled by magicians, and eat a free and healthy lunch funded through the Summer Food Service Program. City Life operates with the sponsorship of Healing Waters Church under the leadership of Senior Pastor Joseito Velasquez, who has made it his mission to feed as many kids in the Denver Metro area as possible this summer.

The kids have had a blast the past two months due to trips to the skating rink, a water park, and unlimited games inside the facility; City Life, its staff, and its volunteers have truly made this summer special for residents of Five Points. This Friday afternoon, the church had a unique guest: Albus Brooks, Councilman for District 8, where Five Points is located. After a meal of pineapple, turkey salad sandwiches and cold milk, Councilman Brooks chatted with the kids and exchanged stories about the neighborhood. Brooks, a resident of District 8, is an avid supporter of the Summer Food Service Program and the opportunities it provides to kids. “In working with low income kids in this neighborhood for over 12 years, it has been my experience that many IMG_0070families struggle with one very important need – food security. I am so thankful for the work of City Life Church to engage in meeting this need and reaching out to the families and children of District 8. I wish every kid, living below the poverty line, will be able to benefit from a program like this.” The visit ended with the kids performing their rendition of the Harlem Shake for the Councilman, sending him off with high fives, and going on to enjoy the rest of the summer.

To learn more about City Life Church and Urban Outreach Denver, visit uodenver.org.

The Summer Food Service Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and administered by the Colorado Department of Education, enables community-based locations such as schools, churches and recreation centers to offer meals to youth 18 and under all summer long. There are no income or registration requirements for participation. To find a site near you, visit kidsfoodfinder.org, call (855) 855-4626 or text (720) 432-3285 Monday through Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm. For more information about how your program can be involved, visit the Colorado Department of Education website.

Victoria Treski, Child Nutrition Program Lead for Hunger Free Colorado.

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