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After eliminating school lunch debt, district focuses on creating food pantries for students

The food pantries will help Greeley-Evans School District 6 ensure kids have food even when they go home.

GREELEY, Colo. — Schools are quiet this week for Thanksgiving, yet Danielle Bock can’t stop thinking about the students in her district.

"Any holiday break weighs heavy on us," said Bock, the director of nutrition services for Greeley-Evans School District 6. "It’s always a little hard for us."

In an area where 70% of kids qualify for free or reduced lunch, Bock is in charge of making sure everyone gets fed. 

Back in 2020, students at the district had racked up around $150,000 worth of school lunch debt. Next with Kyle Clark viewers helped pay much of that off through a Word of Thanks campaign. But the district realized it still had a problem making sure students had food outside of school. Now, they have the money to tackle that problem.

"All we want to do is make sure they are nourished so that their bodies are prepared to learn and they minds are prepared to thrive in the classrooms," said Bock. "Our students are out of school this entire week for the Thanksgiving holiday. We know that those students may not have access to any food, let alone any healthy food."

Working with the Greeley-Evans Success Foundation, food pantries will soon be installed at every single school in the district, giving kids the opportunity to take food home with them.

"What we plan to do is stock these food pantries with the healthiest food that we can possibly serve to our students in a manner that they can take home," said Bock. 

During the pandemic, the United States Department of Agriculture allowed new waivers to give every family free lunches. Because the school lunch debt in the district hasn’t gone back up after it was paid off last year, they’re finally able to raise funds to open these new food pantries.

They’re planning to have full entrees students can take home. The district will make them and freeze them so students can then eat whenever they want.

"We’re looking at 33 sites at this point in time," said Julie Hill with the Success Foundation, the district's non-profit. "We know there’s a huge need around nutrition."

On this week, of all weeks, the focus is on food. Next year, Danielle doesn’t want to have to worry about whether any of her 23,000 students have enough to eat.

"When we know that the whole world is focusing on food security and enjoying that meal at home with their families, we need to capitalize on the opportunity to ensure that’s available for everybody," said Bock. "The hope is next thanksgiving, none of my staff will sit around wondering how to get food to those families homes for the students who they know aren’t in their cafeteria and they know are hungry."

If you would like to donate to the district's cause, you can find more information here on their Colorado Gives page.

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