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Changes ahead for student food bank program

Feeding the Future provides food for local students


Elementary students receiving weekend food from the Arvada Community Food Bank will be able to prepare it and feed themselves when no adults are around thanks to changes being made to the program.

Feeding the Future, the rebrand of the food banks backpack program, is changing the types of food given in weekly sacks to students in need before they leave school on Fridays. Sacks, which are given to students signed up in the program at 19 schools in Arvada and Wheat Ridge, will contain foods like squeezable peanut butter and jelly, cereal and microwavable macaroni and cheese.

“Now, no matter what the situation is at home, the kid will get food because they can feed themselves,” said Rocky Baldassare, Feeding the Future program manager. “That’s a big deal for us.”

Prior to this year, sacks included things like spaghetti and cans of green beans and refried beans. But the sacks were getting heavy, costs for the program were getting too high and the sacks were drifting from the original goal, Baldassare said.

“It wasn’t supposed to be for the whole family,” he said. “It’s for the kids. We want to feed the kids and a six year old can’t make spaghetti for themselves.”

Tim Weaver, family engagement liaison at Kullerstrand Elementary in Wheat Ridge says he sees good in the program change.

“Come the weekend, it enables the kids to not only know there’s going to be food there for them, but they are able to have nutrition and that helps them engage academically, emotionally and behaviorally,” Weaver said, adding that at a Title 1 school, families often have challenges that leave students unsupervised on the weekends.

All schools that participate in the program are Title 1 schools, which have a high percentage of low income students.

In Arvada, schools participating in the program include Allendale, Arvada K-8, Fitzmorris, Foster, Lawrence, Secrest, Swanson and Thomas. The program also services a small number of unsupervised youths at Campbell, Fremont, Peck, Weber and Vanderhoof. Last school year, unsupervised students at Parr were also serviced. Starting in January, Parr will be getting the full program with its new standing as a Title 1 school.

In Wheat Ridge, schools in the program include Wheat Ridge Head Start, Kullerstrand, Pennington and Stevens.

In addition to the backpack change, Baldassare hopes to implement emergency food pantries at all program schools. A large food pantry will be started at Arvada Head Start.

“We gave them a freezer and fridge, so fresh produce and frozen meat will be available to head start families,” Baldassare said. “We want to do that to an extent at every school with shelf-stable items.”

Along with the emergency food pantries, Baldassare hopes for a big push for families to come to the food bank.

“We really want to get people here because we can help them so much more,” Baldassare said, adding that not only will families receive more food assistance at the actual food bank, but staff there can also help identify what is causing them to be food insecure and connect them to other resources.

All of the changes to the program are to ensure that it becomes a success again.

Now in its 11th year, the program was failing financially.

“Over the last seven years, we’ve been running at a deficit for this program,” Baldassare said. “Donations haven’t gone up and were spending more money servicing more students.”

In 2011, this program was $24,000 over budget and in 2017 that jumped to a $45,000 deficit.

“We’re a nonprofit, we need to break even,” Baldassare said. “We had a choice, get rid of the program, or change it to where going to be successful.”


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