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Feeding Families All Summer Long

Kiwanis club members volunteering at a mobile food pantry in Colorado
Over a third of students at Leawood Elementary School qualify for the National School Lunch Program. To ensure the kids who need food have access to it during the summer, Kiwanis Club of Columbine volunteers operate a mobile pantry at the school most Fridays in June and July.

Fridays are superhero day at Leawood Elementary School. As soon as the bell rings, kids with colorful costumes flood out the doors as their teachers — many of whom are also festively outfitted — wave goodbye.

While they aren’t dressed like it, the real superheroes of the day are the Kiwanis Club of Columbine volunteers who are there, bravely bearing the midday heat to pack and distribute bags of food for families who need a little extra help to get to Monday.

“It helps a lot, especially if we’re busy or missing a meal for a day,” said Jamie, whose daughters eagerly helped carry the bags to the car. “This helps us get through the weekend.”

a family holding a bag of food that they received at a mobile food pantry in Colorado
Around 40 families pick up food at Leawood Elementary School. It helps people like Jamie and her daughters have the nourishment they need to thrive over the weekend.

The Kiwanis Club of Columbine started organizing this distribution last year after being approached by Allison Taggart, program director for Integrated Family Community Services (IFCS).

“We had the van, the coolers, and the space, but we didn’t have the people power,” said Taggart. “So I asked the Kiwanis Club if they’d help. They signed up right away. And I mean, look at them!” She pointed to the tent and tables the volunteers had set up to organize and pack the food. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Over a third of Leawood students qualify for the free-and-reduced-lunch program. To ensure the kids who need food have access to it during the summer, IFCS coordinates with The Action Center, a Hunger Relief Partner of Food Bank of the Rockies, to source food. On this particular Friday, the bags include eggs, string cheese, Cheerios, ground beef, carrots, corn, grapefruit, tortillas, black beans, and more. The whole operation is part of the Jefferson County Summer of Early Learning Program (JSEL), which provides groceries to low-income kids and their families from early June to mid-July.

Kiwanis volunteers outside at a mobile food pantry in Colorado
Members of the Kiwanis Club of Columbine volunteered to organize the mobile pantry at Leawood Elementary School in 2021. Pictured left to right: Karen Hunley, Connie McLaughlin, Dayle Axman, Rod Hunley, Ferris Forar, Mike Greunke, Tom Durkin.

“I like volunteering because I know I’m helping a lot of people get some food on the table,” said Ferris Forar, a retired professor. “I spent my life as a university dairy farmer, so food is very important.”

Within 30 minutes, all the food has been distributed and the parking lot has emptied out. The Kiwanis members begin packing up the van, discussing the following day’s volunteer gig as they work. Same time, same place next week, the superheroes will return.

Inspired to help feed your neighbors by volunteering? Sign up for a shift today at foodbankrockies.org/get-involved/volunteer.

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