Fighting food insecurity

Smart Bellies is reducing childhood hunger in Summit, Lake & Park counties

 

In 2018, Margaret Sheehe and Sarah Schmidt discovered a heart-wrenching truth: Some kids in Frisco, Breckenridge, Dillon and Silverthorne didn’t have enough to eat on the weekends. While these same kids would eat breakfast and lunch at school through the Free and Reduced-Price School Meal program, on Saturdays and Sundays there was no safety net.

Fast-forward four years and now Smart Bellies is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit working to reduce childhood hunger and increase access to healthy food for all children in Summit County — and also neighboring Lake and Park counties, the communities where many of the resort area’s working families live. Smart Bellies not only feeds kids on weekends, now they’re leveling up overall nutrition and food equity for families in this part of Colorado.

Weekend Backpacks, the nonprofit’s original program, delivers to about 600 kids each week. The backpack has two entrees, two breakfasts, two types of produce and a few snacks. Smart Bellies aims for a 50/50 fresh-to-shelf-stable ratio, and they include all food groups. Most importantly, the backpacks contain food that the kids can make themselves.

“Alpine Bank was one of the first corporate partners to deliver a consistent stream of volunteers for packing events and deliveries. And they’re a repeat matching sponsor for fundraisers and special events and projects — like providing back-to-school supplies,” says Margaret. “Alpine thinks of us without being asked. From its anniversary celebration gifts to fundraising for us on Shred Day, it’s a true community partnership.”

One recipient of food, who doesn’t own a car, describes the burdensome process of grocery shopping: “I walk long distances carrying bags from the bus stop. For this reason, we shop for groceries only twice a month. Smart Bellies’ arrival every Friday is just amazing to us; we get ingredients and snacks that otherwise we would struggle to get on a weekly basis.”

The lingering pandemic and rising inflation are contributing to continued demand. Happily, though, Sarah reports that overall, kids and families in Summit County now feel less food insecurity with the safeguards that Smart Bellies provides. “One-hundred percent of families who completed our recent survey said receiving a Smart Bellies bag each week helps them worry less about feeding their children,” she says. Learn more at smartbellies.org or send questions and comments to [email protected].

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