DENVER (CBS4) – Hunger is usually associated with cold weather, but people go hungry in the summer as well. CBS4’s Kathy Walsh found an organization in Denver making sure needy children get a free and filling lunch when school’s out.
There’s no paperwork to fill out, no need to qualify. The program is for hungry children and parents who could use some help.
During this July scorcher the Mejia girls shared a picnic lunch in the shade. Jasmine enjoyed some cheese, Alejandra munched whole grain pretzels, and little Joanna attacked a big apple. It’s a balanced meal for the children.
The food arrives in underserved neighborhoods Monday through Friday on a tiny school bus called the “Lunchbox Express.” Each meal is free. It’s welcome nutrition for children used to getting free lunch in school and out of luck in the summer.
“The food is great because they don’t give the same thing every day,” Jasmine said.
“It’s healthy and it gives you energy,” Alejandra said.
For mom, Anna Pena, it’s a way to save on a tight budget.
“For the Latin community it’s really important that it be free because they wouldn’t be able to afford coming out and buying lunch every day,” Pena said through a translator.
The Lunchbox Express doesn’t discriminate.
“Hunger is something that we need to face,” Doug Vega with the Jewish Family Service said.
It’s a program of Jewish Family Service, but Vega says four buses serve all children at 13 sites in Denver and Aurora.
“Jewish Family Service stands for traditional values and we care about everyone,” Vega said.
The nonprofit hands out 3,000 lunches a week. The payback is on the faces of the children who look forward to the Lunchbox Express, grateful for the mobile meal.
By using the Lunchbox Express, a family with one child can save about $110 over the summer, which is perhaps enough to pay a utility bill. Every little bit helps.