With the end of the year fast approaching it’s a good to step back and remember the big-picture reasons why organizations like Food for Thought-Denver are so important. One way of doing this is to visit the Colorado Children’s Camapign website and take a look at the 2013 edition of KIDS COUNT in Colorado! It provides an important yearly snapshot of Denver’s children in such vital areas as health, education and economic security.
Obviously, these are difficult times as families continue to struggle in the aftermath of the recession, and kids are particularly vulnerable. Sadly, Denver is one of the areas where children have been most impacted by poverty and recession. Denver once again ranked last in the state in the report’s Child Well-Being Index.
The number of Colorado families below the federal poverty line ($23,000 for a family of four) has increased in the last decade from 10 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2011. Equally concerning is the finding that Colorado had the country’s second-fastest growth rate for “children living in communities with concentrated poverty.”
In times of economic hardship families have to tighten their food budgets. Perhaps the report’s most telling statistic is that “20 percent of all Colorado children (approximately 249,000 kids) lived in a household that experienced food insecurity.”
The report also notes the importance of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs in providing nutritious meals to a growing number of Colorado’s kids: “The number of students eligible for free or reduced price meals has increased by 33 percent (more than 88,000 additional children) since the 2007-2008 school year.”
However, that still leaves the weekends as a time of hunger and food shortages for many children. Food for Thought-Denver is currently helping bridge the weekend food gap by providing meals for over 1,000 kids at four Denver schools. Our goal is to expand our program to Denver Public Schools where 90% or more of the student body qualifies for free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs. There are 20,000 children at over 40 elementary schools who meet this criteria!
KIDS COUNT in Colorado! continues to be an important gauge of the health of Colorado communities and children. On the issue of food security its message is clear: hunger is still a reality for too many of Denver’s children.