DENVER (KDVR) — One in six Colorado children don’t have access to the food they need. Kids that don’t have proper nutrition during the summer are more likely to experience learning loss. 

Thirty percent of students in the Cherry Creek School District qualify for free or reduced meals, and during the summer, families have to make up for the two meals that their students are missing. 

Free summer meals

Monday, June 5, is the first day that free meals will be served to students at mobile sites.

There are six sites in the Aurora area for Cherry Creek School District students and two joint sites with Aurora Public Schools.  

Last year, the district served 1,000 meals a day at all of the sites combined. They anticipate serving that many, if not more, this summer. 

However, one COVID-era change is being missed by parents and students.  

“Unfortunately, the waivers that we had during COVID allowed families to take meals to-go and that’s no longer the case. That’s been a challenge for us because we want to make sure that our families have what they need, but they actually have to come on-site and eat the meals on-site,” said Kim Kilgore, the director of food and nutrition at Cherry Creek Schools. “During COVID, when they came for lunch we gave them breakfast for the next day. So we were able to provide that, but unfortunately under current regulations were not.” 

Times and locations

The free distribution program will run Monday through Friday, June 5 – July 27. It will be closed on June 19, July 3 and 4.

Lunch service is from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Canyon Creek Elementary School – 6070 S. Versailles Pkwy. in Aurora
  • Eastridge Community Elementary School – 11777 E. Wesley Ave. in Aurora
  • Independence Elementary School – 4700 S. Memphis St. in Aurora
  • Red Hawk Ridge Elementary School – 16251 E. Geddes Ave. in Aurora
  • Sunrise Elementary School – 4050 S. Genoa Way in Aurora
  • Village East Elementary School – 1433 S. Oakland St. in Aurora

In conjunction with Aurora Public Schools – outdoor service is available from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at:

  • Utah Park – 1800 S. Peoria St. in Aurora
  • Mission Viejo Park – 3999 S. Mission Aurora

District gearing up for free meals year-round

The pandemic has proven free meals are not only needed during the summer. COVID allowed all students to have free meals during the school year, but, during the 2022-2023 school year, students were required to pay. 

However, passing Proposition FF will allow all students to get free breakfast and lunch every day. 

During a normal year where students had to pay, Cherry Creek Schools said they serve about 3.2 million lunches and 900,000 breakfasts. In comparison, when meals were free, they served 4.5 million lunches and 1.5 million breakfasts.   

Free meals for every student have created some new challenges too.  

 “Our warehouse isn’t large enough. Our schools aren’t large enough to hold all the things that they need. So next year, we’re already planning to make double deliveries to some schools. So really, it’s operationally just because we weren’t built to feed 100% of our kids, but I think my team has really worked well and we have a lot of things in place for next year that I think should really help efficiencies and make sure that all of our students have equal access to meals,” said Kilgore. 

To help accommodate this, they are ordering equipment, hiring additional staff, streamlining the process, and even looking into adding machines and food trucks.