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Summer break means hunger pangs for some families

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Kids usually look forward to summer. School's out and they're filled with thoughts of sleeping in, watching endless cartoons, running through freshly cut grass, staying up late and all those other summer joys.

Or, at least they should be able to feel this way. Unfortunately, many kids in our city dread summer because of the food source they leave behind through school-provided breakfast and lunch. For them, being out of school means hunger pangs. For parents, it means providing additional meals without additional resources.

Determinants of health include: the house you live in, your neighborhood, where you work and go to school, what you eat, your income and the amount of rest you receive. The term "health equity" encompasses all of these factors.

Any way you look at it, food is a basic human need. Lack of nutrition can lead to inequitable outcomes such as poor academic performance and test scores, negative labels, fewer job opportunities, lower income, fewer housing options, addiction, poor health care options, chronic disease, and/or death.

Moreover, people in these positions receive an onslaught of failure messages. What is the emotional and mental stamina a person has to have in order to process these messages without succumbing to defeat? About health equity, my son says, "Mom, just because you're poor, doesn't mean your health has to be poor too." He's right.

The southeast side of our city is one of the hardest-hit areas during the summer when it comes to children looking for meals. Many factors contribute, including low wages, residence in a food desert, and lack of adequate transportation to a reasonably close-by grocery store. Following are resources and options for those in our community who are looking for a little additional help to feed their families. (Parents in other districts and areas of the city should check into summer meal options provided by those districts.)

Emergency food assistance resources

Hungerfree Colorado (855/855-4626, hungerfreecolorado.org): Bilingual food assistance navigators are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They help connect families to local food resources and guide them through the process of applying for SNAP benefits.

Care & Share (434-4683, tinyurl.com/TEFAP): The Emergency Food Assistance Program is federally funded and provides emergency assistance to folks with low incomes.

Colorado Springs Food Rescue weekly grocery program

Atlas Prep School grocery program, a partnership with Care & Share (358-7196, 1602 S. Murray Blvd.), Fridays, 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Meadows Park Community Center (385-7940, 1943 S. El Paso Ave.), Fridays, noon to 1 p.m.

Relevant Word Ministries (635-6640, 1040 S. Institute St.), Saturdays, noon to 1 p.m.

Summer lunch programs

Kids Food Finder (kidsfoodfinder.org): This site has an interactive map that connects families to lunch programs available all summer long. The map will be updated at the end of the month. For more information visit cde.state.co.us/nutrition/nutrisummer.

June 5 to July 23, Monday-Thursday:

Colorado Springs School District 11: Offering an open summer food service program for children 1 to 18 years old. The program will provide free breakfast and lunch during the summer at the locations, dates and times shown below. For more locations: 520-2924, or tinyurl.com/D11Summer.

Adams Elementary: breakfast, 7:30 to 8:10 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m. to noon

Roosevelt Elementary: breakfast, 7:30 to 8 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m. to noon

Life Skills (May 31-June 21): No breakfast; lunch, 11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

June 5 to July 27, Monday-Thursday:

Harrison School District 2: Meals will be provided in the community to any child 18 and younger at these sites and times:

Monterey Elementary: breakfast, 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Bricker Elementary: breakfast, 8 to 9 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Oak Creek Elementary: breakfast, 8 to 9 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

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