By Cliff Foster
Metro State has teamed up with the Arvada Sunrise Rotary Club in a major nutrition initiative that will provide bags of groceries every week to students at two Denver elementary schools with a high percentage of participants in the free and reduced price lunch program.
Called “Food for Thought,” the effort kicks off Wednesday, March 14, when trucks donated for the effort by Mountain Packaging will deliver groceries to the Plaza Building. There, the food will be sorted and assembled by volunteers for delivery on Friday, March 16, to Fairview and Columbian elementary schools in Denver. The effort will continue on that schedule through June 1 and resume next school year.
Students from lower-income households qualify for the federally subsidized school lunch program, which helps meet their nutritional needs during the week. As for the weekends, “several studies have found that some students are unprepared to learn on Monday morning because sometimes the only meal they’ve had was on the last Friday” at school, says Michael Wray, director of restaurant management in the Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events (HTE) and a Food for Thought organizer.
“You can imagine if you are a teacher in that building and the preparedness to learn on Monday morning is impeded because the students are very hungry, and without that food they’re not ready for thought,” he says.
The groceries will include nonperishable items such as tuna, canned fruit and vegetables, pasta and dried goods. The food is purchased from Food Bank of the Rockies. The cost per bag is about $4, and the project will serve more than 600 students.
The Arvada Sunrise Rotary has raised about $40,000 so far. It is estimated that providing groceries each week to students at the two schools during the school year will cost $80,000.
Metro State got involved after Wray met Arvada Sunrise Rotary member John Thielen, president of Roth Distributing, a distributor of appliances, including those made by Sub-Zero and Wolf. The rotary had been involved in a similar effort benefitting Swanson Elementary in Arvada but wanted to do more, according to rotary member Bob Bell, a Realtor with Milehiproperty and a principal organizer of Food for Thought along with Thielen.
But the rotary faced a logistical challenge—it needed a place to store and assemble the groceries.
That’s where the College stepped in. Wray brought together a working group of 10 faculty and staff and a number of meetings were held in January and February. The HTE department reorganized storage space to accommodate the groceries, and each week volunteers will ensure the food gets to the schools. To volunteer, click here.
“In the future Student Services will help recruit student volunteers and so will faculty and staff that are on the working group,” Wray says. “We’ve discussed the possibilities for research and consulting with the Food for Thought program. We may emerge as a formal committee that advises the rotary and coordinates campus support of this service mission.”
Wray adds that the program will benefit not only the children but Metro State students involved in this service-learning project.
“Their service-learning experience is to realize their role in society...to help build a strong population, and you can’t do that when there are underprivileged segments that are struggling to survive,” he says. “That’s part of our mission. Along with success there’s a responsibility to give back.”
Bell said preliminary discussions have taken place about the potential of advancing Food for Thought as a model that could be replicated throughout Rotary International.
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