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Portable playgrounds offer food and fun in Thornton

The program is designed to provide meals to children while also bringing summer camp to those who might not be able to participate in activities otherwise.

DENVER, Colorado — One summer program put on in collaboration with the City of Thornton and the Food Bank of the Rockies is trying to appeal to kids with play and food. The idea is to bring activities to children while also providing summer meals for them. 

'Portable Playgrounds' began 27 years ago in Thornton, but this is the first year the program is partnering with the food bank to offer lunches at 10 sites located throughout the city. Each site is visited once per week. 

"Having movement and creativity and nutrition to bring out to these kids, even if it’s once a week, it gives them some sense of hope and pride and fun - something to look forward to once a week," said Jenny Dowdell, recreation coordinator with Thornton. 

Dowdell began the program from its infancy and wanted to ensure that kids have every opportunity to participate in summer activities. 

"It’s important because we meet the kids where they are at," Dowdell said. "Not every kid has the opportunity to go to summer camp, so we try to bring a little piece of summer camp out to those who don’t." 

RELATED: Challenges mount for local food bank as gas, food prices soar

On average, Food Bank of the Rockies is providing 20 to 40 meals per site, and between 200 and 400 weekly meals in total to kids at the portable playground sites. 

"Being able to come to a meal site and distribute a fresh meal is one really meaningful day that we can work with the community and ensure that parents have less to worry about," said Aditi Desai with Food Bank of the Rockies. 

With groceries so expensive as a result of inflation, parents say even one meal per week makes a difference. 

"Parents struggle because Colorado is so expensive," said Taylor Flores, who says she will try to make sure she is at one of the sites weekly. "It makes me happy, because at Ieast he can eat. I would rather him eat before me. And I would literally give up any food just to give to my son, because he is the most important thing." 

Thornton residents can text 304-304 with the word 'food' or 'comida' for more information on where the closest Portable Playground is.

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