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Kids Cafe Summer Wrap Up

As summer ends and we all prepare for the back-to-school rush Food Bank for Larimer County gets ready for a change in seasons as well. Kids Cafe summer locations are closed for the year and served over 30,000 meals to children in need in Larimer County.

Our kitchen does not get much of a break as they are back in there putting food together for the school year starting August 22. Food Bank for Larimer County collaborates with Poudre and Thompson School Districts to provide after school snacks for students that are at risk of going hungry. Schools that have 50% or more of a population of students that qualify for reduced and free lunches are enrolled in the program. Kids Café snacks help provide kids with the fuel they need to thrive and succeed.

“Many kids come to school hungry and have not eaten all weekend or since the day before.” Explains Liz Donovan, Nutrition and Programs Manager “By offering snacks to these children, we can ensure that their school day provides all the resources they need beyond basic classroom needs.” Snacks are made shelf-stable and nutritiously dense to provide the best resources for kids in need.

Along with Kids Cafe snacks, we also work to provide weekend resources for kids in need. Those that are homeless or near homelessness are given packs of shelf-stable food that they can take home for the weekend. Packs include things like peanut butter and dry cereals to feed kids while they are away from schools, preventing kids from missing vital nutrients and providing the ability to flourish.

Though a few skipped meals may not seem all-around detrimental, research has shown that kids who regularly skip meals tend to miss school more often and are sick more often because they lack nutrients to keep their immune system strong.  Children that are food-insecure are far more likely to end up hospitalized and have chronic health problems. For these children it is more common to have oral problems and an overall poorer quality of life, which can cause more issues with their engagement in and out of the classroom. This can cause behavioral issues such as aggression, hyperactivity, fighting, anxiety, mood swings, and bullying.

As we continue our efforts to expand our programs and serve more kids, will you join us and help guarantee food for our children in need? LEARN MORE or DONATE.

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Feeding Your Child’s Brain

The beginning of another school year is just around the corner.  Now is the time to start planning how to prepare nutritious meals and snacks for your kids.  The brain requires a tremendous amount of energy to function.  Children learn best when their brains and bodies are in a nourished state. 

Read on to find tasty “brain foods” for children and the nutrients they contain.

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Kids Eat Right Month™

Kids Eat Right Month™

The month of August is celebrated as Kids Eat Right Month™ by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  This month, Food Bank for Larimer County will feature weekly blogs focusing on topics related to childhood nutrition.  The topic for this week’s blog is Healthy After-School Snacks.  Please read on for tips and recipes for great after-school snacks.

After-school snacking is tricky.  Kids are hungry, but you don’t want them filling up on snacks a few hours before dinner.  Ideally, they would be eating healthy foods, but that usually involves shopping, washing and chopping.

It’s true, healthy after-school snacks are going to take a little bit of prep work and some pre-planning.  Read on for healthy snacks that will save money, cut down on sugar, fat, salt, calories and waste from pre-packaged foods.

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Need Rises in Larimer County

July 2016 was a record-breaking month for Food Bank for Larimer County. From April to June we supported 50,000 household visits, breaking a previous record set in 2012 at the end of the great recession. The number of times guests visit Food Share has also increased from 2.95 visits a month in 2010, to 3.81 visits a month in April-June 2016.

The increased need also has required increased efforts to source and redistribute more food. In 2012, we distributed around 1.5 million pounds of food in April-June. In 2016, we distributed 2.04 million pounds in the last quarter. The continued growth in service means we are reaching warehouse storage capacity and putting a greater-than-ever strain on existing resources.

The future is always uncertain, but based on State Demographers projections, we expect to see continued growth in the need for our services. By 2035, the population of Larimer County is projected to reach 450,000, while the number of individuals eligible for Food Bank programs could climb to nearly 120,000. To prepare, we are working on several new initiatives that will be announced in the coming months, including a new partnership with Volunteers of America to increase meal service and potentially fresh food access for seniors. Please keep in touch on social media and through this newsletter for the latest information.

Our vision is a hunger-free Larimer County and we hope that as the population increases we can keep up with the demand and help all people in need through innovative solutions. We hope you will join us as we continue our work to ensure no one in our community goes hungry.

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Agency Spotlight

A few months ago one of the freezers broke at the Salvation Army in Fort Collins. When the repair guy came to fix it he saw how old the second freezer was and recommended they both be replaced. With only one remaining freezer the Salvation Army did not have the space to store all the donations of ready to eat meals that they get from area restaurants and the Food Bank for Larimer County. With the help of the Food Bank for Larimer County the Salvation Army was able to purchase 2 new freezers to replace the old and broken ones. Now their monthly food boxes are full of meat, produce, and non-perishables! Of course the Salvation Army does a lot more than provide emergency food boxes to guests once a month. They offer a warm dry space to hang out and laundry facilities. The Salvation Army in Fort Collins offers a variety of children’s programming too, from summer camp in Estes Park to new music lessons on a variety of instruments. Thanks to the Salvation Army for all they do!

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Hungry Kids in Larimer County

Larimer County is a beautiful place to live.  Just below the foothills, Larimer County is one of the best agricultural locations in the state.  Surrounded by farms of various sizes, growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, it is hard to imagine that Larimer County has any hungry families.  Yet 14% of Larimer County residents live below the poverty level and 33% of children qualify for free & reduced school lunches.

The cause of hunger is usually poverty.  There are a significant number of families that live in the grey area, making too much money to qualify for aid and assistance programs yet, cannot afford to feed their families due to the high cost of living in Larimer County.

The Food Bank for Larimer County is dedicated to ending childhood hunger.  Over 30% of the food distributed by our Food Share program is provided to children in our community.  In addition, our Child Nutrition programs focus on providing meals and snacks to children during the summer months when school is out as well as during the school year.

For a full description of the programs available to children click here

What makes our Child Nutrition programs unique?  Many people may not know this, but the Food Bank has a fully functioning kitchen with a volunteer force of 20 people a day.  Volunteers make it not only possible, but also more cost effective to prepare meals and snacks from scratch.

“Scratch cooking is what defines our program”. –Mike DeBonte, Kitchen Supervisor

According to Kitchen Supervisor, Mike DeBonte, the Food Bank has been able to expand the number of Kids Cafe sites and children served due to savings generated by scratch cooking.  Not only is the food more cost effective, but also more nutritious.  Cooking meals and snacks in-house allows for more control over added sugar, salt and fat.  For example, muffins are made by substituting some sugar and fat with sugar-free applesauce.  Adding applesauce adds more flavor, fiber, moisture and sweetness to the muffins without adding more sugar and oil.  Scratch cooking isn’t just reserved for baked goods, even the sauces and salad dressings are made in-house.  Making ranch dressing from scratch allows the kitchen to again control the sugar and oil to produce a superior product in both taste and nutrition.

The Food Bank kitchen also utilizes fresh produce whenever possible.  Menus are changed and adapted based on the fresh produce available to the kitchen.  Another way they are encouraging kids to eat their vegetables is by incorporating veggies into the main meal.  If veggies are incorporated into the meal instead of on the side, kids are more likely to give them a try.  The food has been well received by the children served at Kids Cafe sites.  Menus and meals are developed with kids in mind and staff are also receptive to feedback and make changes when menu items aren’t well received.

Scratch cooking makes sense from every angle, it is cost effective, reduces packaging and waste, is additive and preservative free, and contains fresh wholesome ingredients for better nutrition.  Give it a try in your kitchen today!

“Thank you for the awesome food that fueled our night!” –Michelle

“Thank you for all the delicious, healthy food you provided!” –Brianna

“Thank you! Keep the black bean quesadillas coming!” – Liz

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Kids Cafe Volunteers

Volunteering has many faces here at Food Bank for Larimer County. Some of our volunteers choose to cook, while others sort. Some choose to grow food to donate. Others choose to help with our events. We have many spots at the Food Bank for volunteers, but by far, the most popular choice is to volunteer with Kids Cafe.
Not only do Kids Cafe Volunteers directly have a hand in making sure children can eat this summer, but they have a hand in directly influencing the future of our community. By providing children nutritious and plentiful meals we help children do better in school along with other activities and we assist in keeping children healthy and strong.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” explains Tom Inscho. “And we have a lot of fun doing it. In life, we connect the dots to many things happening in the world. In my working life and my career there were many dots, seven or eight dots, if I do this then this will happen, and so on, to where eventually something good happens. In this, it is like one dot. If I do this, kids eat today.” Inscho is part of a group of volunteers that work in the kitchen, for Kids Cafe, every Wednesday at 10am. “It’s very satisfying to know that I can do something and it turns into something good.”
“I’ve been doing this every week for three years” Cynthia Bush said “I don’t know if other groups have as much fun as us we do, but it’s great. We laugh, we play music, we catch up and we are helping children.” Bush was previously a schoolteacher and witnessed firsthand the need for Kids Cafe in the Larimer County community. Today, with her group of friends on Wednesday, she is able to support that program.
For children who are food insecure many things are more difficult than for children who have consistent and healthy food at home. Many children from food insecure households have a harder time in school due to frequent illness-related absences or the inability to focus on learning. In the summer, when free and reduced school lunches are not available, kids can go days without a meal. If parents are able to purchase food, due to income restrictions, they will often choose cheaper and less-healthy food for children, which can lead to higher rates of childhood obesity and diabetes. Our Kids Cafe provides healthy meals to help children thrive in the summer.
Volunteers like Tom and Cynthia are the hearts and hands of Kids Cafe. With their help, each year, our Kids Cafe provides over 165,000 healthy meals and snacks. Our work would not be possible without the help of our fantastic and dedicated volunteers!
To learn more about volunteering at the Food Bank, please contact BenMensch at bmensch@foodbanklarimer.org or visit our website: foodbanklarimer.org/volunteer/

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Lago Vista Thrives with Kids Cafe

In Loveland, the Lago Vista trailer Park works with the Food Bank for Larimer County to ensure kids receive healthy and nutritious food every day, while school is out for the summer. Thanks to the aid and commitment of Laney and Duncan Howard, the children also have access to enrichment activities and educational programs.

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Kids Cafe Fights Summer Hunger

This summer, Food Bank for Larimer County’s Kids Cafe is providing free summer meals in Fort Collins, Loveland, Wellington and Estes Park. The Food Bank plans to serve 56,000 meals during June, July and August. Every day in June the Community Kitchen produced:

  • 400 snacks for three locations,
  • 970 lunches for twelve locations,
  • and 150 breakfasts for two locations.

Summer meals give children a chance to access good meals and to try new things that are healthy and tasty.

“Chili Hoagies are a big hit” said Justin Kruger, Food Bank Executive Chef and Community Kitchen Manager, “the spicy chicken taco was very popular on Wednesday.  Our varieties of baked taquitos are all well liked.  The cinnamon sugar tortilla roll-up has been a big breakfast hit.” Justin runs kitchen operations along with Mike DeBonte.

Liz Donovan, Food Bank Programs Manager and registered dietitian, oversees the planning and production of foods every week. All meals and snacks meet or exceed USDA guidelines. Meals are prepared fresh in the Kids Cafe kitchen by volunteers under the supervision of Food Bank staff.

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Food Waste and the Food Bank Battle

We all do it. The day the milk goes “bad” according to a “best by” label it goes down the drain and the plastic container goes in the recycle bin. It’s understandable; we have been raised to believe that label on our green beans and spinach, our canned corn and pumpkin. Yet the reality is that none of those labels are regulated or even accurately indicate if a food is safe to consume.

Most foods are still good well past the “expiration date”, even fresh foods. As Ben Mensch, the volunteer coordinator at the Food Bank for Larimer County, puts it “Milk is not going to be fresh at 11:59pm and rotten at 12:01am, it just doesn’t work that way.” The problem with the dates and labeling is that none of it is regulated by the FDA or any other government agency (except for baby formula) for the consumer to actually know what is good or bad for them to consume. These numbers don’t even relate to food freshness, but instead are meant to work as a cataloging system for retailers to know when items were stocked. In May, a bill introduced in Congress has asked for federal regulation of food labeling in an attempt to cut down on food waste and inhibit states from passing bills that limit donations to food banks.

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