Do you know where or when you’ll get your next meal?
For some, the question may be one that has more to do with planning and family consensus than financial concerns. But for others, the question of food security looms large over their daily lives.
And many people facing hunger are children.
According to the nonprofit Hunger Free Colorado, 1 in 6 children in the state experience food insecurity – or the condition of “not (having) consistent access to nutritious food.” In La Plata County, nearly 18 percent of minors reside in food-insecure households, as indicated from data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the nonprofit Feeding America.
To help combat problems, the organization Share Our Strength is sponsoring the Colorado Dine Out to End Childhood Hunger campaign on Thursday, in which participating restaurants and retailers will donate a percentage of their proceeds to the group’s nutrition and education program, Cooking Matters Colorado.
While Share Our Strength works statewide to “assist families with access to federal nutrition programs via referral,” the group’s primary efforts go toward “nutrition and food skills education and awareness and advocacy,” said Colorado Director Kelleen Zubick. Cooking Matters Colorado is the nutrition and food-skills education program of Share Our Strength.
The program, Zubick said, “teaches low-income parents and caregivers of children ages zero to 5 how to shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget.”
In terms of the families that Cooking Matters Colorado works with, “we meet them where they are,” Zubick said. “Our classes are held in schools, health clinics, food banks and recreation centers so that we eliminate barriers, like transportation, that would prevent people from accessing our services.”
In Durango, the Ore House, Eno and Cyprus Café will donate 10 percent of their Thursday proceeds to Cooking Matters Colorado as part of the Dine Out campaign.
“When you understand the problem, why wouldn’t you participate?” asks Ore House co-owner Ryan Lowe, referring to southern Colorado’s issues of food insecurity among its youth.
Given that the Ore House is part of Durango’s fine-dining restaurant scene, Lowe recognizes the establishment’s commitment to the Dine Out campaign may seem “ironic.” But Lowe said that “food at all levels is important” and that the Ore House strives to “utilize our success and give back to the community in order to strengthen it and help kids get healthy food on a daily basis.”
For Alison Dance, owner of Eno and Cyprus Café, being part of the Dine Out to End Childhood Hunger effort is an easy way to use her businesses as a vehicle to help bring awareness and funds to a problem affecting youth throughout the region and state. And because it’s possible for people to easily avoid or ignore the problem, Dance said it’s particularly important to participate in the event.
“When people come in on Nov. 30, whether they know about the campaign or not, we can tell them,” Dance says. In regard to youth hunger and food insecurity, Dance notes that sometimes “people say things along the lines of, ‘We don’t think about it’ because we live in an affluent community.”
While Durango does have affluence, “there are also starving kids here,” Dance said. “This is an issue that needs a light shone on it.”
For more information about Durango’s involvement with the Dine Out to End Childhood Hunger campaign, visit Cooking Matters Southwest Colorado’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CookingMattersSWColorado/.