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Colorado Food Cluster Fighting To Keep Feeding Children As Program Nears End

DENVER (CBS4) - Food security for thousands of Colorado kids is at risk as pandemic era programs come to an end. The Colorado Food Cluster was formed to help kids get food as schools shut down in 2020, but the failure to extend waivers means the service that delivers seven meals, or a full week's worth of dinners, in a box to front doors will stop this week.

"In a traditional setting folks would have to go to a school or nonprofit to get meals at a certain time. Now we can actually provide that home delivery model straight to the kids home for that accessibility piece," said Dom Barrera who helped found Colorado Food Cluster.

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The program uses community drivers for about 2,000 deliveries each day. At its height, the program was offering meals to 12,000 kids with about 4,000 on a waiting list. Pandemic era waivers allowed the program to operate, as opposed to kids needing to be in school to receive food.

"Over 4 million meals have been delivered in the last year and a half. So huge impact," Barrera said. "We've done pretty well at creating a model that allows for good nutritious meals to be delivered and that's one less thing that the families need to worry about."

"When my daughter comes home from school she's excited and happy because it gives her a chance to eat something different," said Rose Ramos, a mom of four who uses the program.

Boxes are packed with seven meals, snacks, and milk.

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"Financially it would be devastating to lose," said Ramos. "The program is a great way to support our school age children throughout Colorado and it does help families that really need support with food."

The Colorado Department of Education says 279 food distribution sites around the state may not operate this summer because area eligibility waivers are also ending. Some have applied to continue offering services. Colorado Food Cluster has tried to continue operating but will need state and federal agencies to pivot away from the waiver program and approve it as a demonstration project.

"There's so many other families out there that could use this resource," Barrera said.

Hunger Free Colorado offers a food resource hotline for people struggling with food security.

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