Lunch Lizard unveils new food truck to help bring meals to kids
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - Schools everywhere will soon be adjourning for summer break which means for many kids, daily meals will be harder to come by.
In 2015, District 51 and the Western Colorado Community Foundation launched a pilot program aimed at getting meals to kids in need throughout the summer. The district said during the school year, students who qualify are able to get breakfast and lunch free of charge thanks to federal funding. But summer was a different story.
“The question came up, how do these kids get food in the summer time and that’s when Lunch Lizard was born,” said Dan Sharp, director of food and nutrition services for District 51. “We saw the need in the community right away. We were hitting a lot of the income areas of the community that are a little bit lower and we noticed there are kids and families that liked receiving that help and assistance during the summer time.”
When Lunch Lizard first started they had one truck running five routes, bringing meals to kids every day. The Western Colorado Community Foundation president, Anne Wenzel said the need was great. The first year the program was around, Lunch Lizard delivered around 4,000 meals. In 2021, Wenzel said they delivered 40,000 meals.
“We have about 50 percent of students in our school district, who are eligible for free or reduced priced lunch,” said Wenzel. “That means one out of two children get meals at school during the school year, breakfast and lunch. But they don’t get meals in the summer. So that’s eight to ten weeks when they go without a steady supply of healthy nutritious food. The idea of feeding children in their neighborhoods where they live and play during the summer months is what inspired the Lunch Lizard mobile meals program.”
Eventually Lunch Lizard acquired a second food truck through community donations, as had the first. The trucks have been out every summer for the last seven years. But now, they’re beginning to show their age.
“The old trucks have been very difficult,” said Sharp. “The generators don’t power them up enough, the staff are in the 90-degree heat working and sweating to help deliver food to hungry kids in our community and it’s just been really tough.”
Thanks to a $150,000 donation from the Ferris family, who owns Western Slope Auto and Grand Junction Chrysler, Lunch Lizard had enough money to purchase a new food truck to replace an older one in their fleet.
“The van really is kind of near and dear to my heart,” said Kevin Davis, president of Western Slope Auto and Grand Junction Chrysler. “I was able to witness it first hand the effect it had on the children who weren’t able to get fresh food to them. I saw the situation and I thought I would buy some young kids some lunch and I didn’t realize it was indeed free. Then after the children received their lunch I watched them eat and they giggled and talked and it just seemed for a couple moments that they had some happiness. So I decided I could help contribute to some of that and that’s what my wife and I decided to do.”
The food trucks will be out this summer, with mostly made-from-scratch hot meals and fresh fruits and vegetables for any child who needs one.
“I think one of the hopes that I have is that the community understands and knows that there are a lot of families out there struggling especially with the rise of inflation that’s hit our community in all sectors, housing and gas and food and all that,” said Sharp. “They shouldn’t feel ashamed if they need help. Here’s an answer that’s been donated by the community to provide the basic need for kids. Any youth, 18 and under can come up to these vehicles. There’s no application. There’s no process you have to go through. They can come up and get a healthy and safe meal for their kids.”
All of the trucks Lunch Lizard has in it’s fleet have come through community donations and now the organization is launching a new campaign to raise funds to replace it’s second older truck. Organizers hope to raise $100,000 in the next three to four months.
For more information about Lunch Lizard, please visit: https://www.d51schools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=81872&pageId=515222 or https://wc-cf.org/
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