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9Cares Colorado Shares supports summer food program for kids

"Our numbers are going to go quite large," said Paul Fisher, culinary manager for Food Bank of the Rockies.

DENVER — If kids have to bank on someone, Paul Fisher wants them to know they can bank on him. He's the culinary manager for Food Bank of the Rockies.

"We're going to be serving the Summer Food Service Program and actually our numbers are going to go quite large," Fisher said.

The nonprofit organization spends all year preparing meals for schools. But, when classes are over and the summer begins, Fisher said the meals for kids do not stop.

"Yeah, it's not their fault," Fisher said. "I mean obviously summertime is fun when you're a kid to go out, play and all those things and have fun. But, they're still hungry."

Donations collected through 9Cares Colorado Shares support efforts by Food Bank of the Rockies to provide food nearly every day of the week.

"Come June, we'll be dong 250 breakfasts, 500-600 lunches, 550 dinners and 550 snacks (per day)," Fisher said.

The food will be served at school sites, recreation centers and through mobile pantries. Food Bank of the Rockies CEO Erin Pulling said the need is greater than ever. During the pandemic, the organization's food distribution increased by 50 percent, she said.

"Our service to kids is critical. It's essential," Pulling said. "We know that one in five kids in Colorado oftentimes does not know where their next meal is coming from."

Now, kids across the Denver metro area can know their next meal may be coming from Fisher and his volunteers.

"Over the last 14 months, Food Bank of the Rockies has had to change everything about our operations," Pulling said. "One of our biggest parts of that is how we serve kids and where we serve kids."

Fisher is also concerned with what they serve to kids.

"Yeah, it's a bit of a challenge," he said. "We do try to get whole grains and all the fruits and vegetables that we can so it's a fulfilling, nourishing meal."

He has to create nutritious servings that kids like to eat.

"One summer I tried tuna fish salad," Fisher said, laughing. "I don't think that was well-received. Obviously, we did it once, and that was it."

Appealing to taste, Fisher said, is more than about making kids happy.

"I just want them to eat it, you know," he said. "It doesn't do me any good for me to send them something they're not going to like. That defeats the whole purpose of the program."

This is a program where making sure kids don't go hungry means something to Fisher.

"You know, that warms my heart. I'm going to get emotional now because that just does," he said.

With the increased demand for food, the Food Bank of the Rockies needs more volunteers to help. If you want to find out more about the program and how to locate food distribution sites, click here: foodbankrockies.org/summermeals

Though school is out for the summer, Fisher knows he's probably not going to get a break.

"I'm going to be quite busy, but you know what? It's OK," he said.

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