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On the heels of widespread school closures announced Thursday and Friday, Colorado districts have rolled out plans to keep feeding the tens of thousands of children who rely on school meals.

Dozens of Colorado school districts that collectively serve about 85% of the state’s students announced closures of at least two weeks.

Whether it’s a snow day or a pandemic, one of the biggest considerations when deciding to close schools is how to continue to feed children. Breakfasts and lunches served at school are a critical source of nutrition for many students.

Statewide, about 40% of students are eligible for subsidized meals, a measure of poverty, and that number is much higher — 64% in Denver, 74% in Aurora, 91% in the tiny Sheridan district, where many students are homeless — in many metro area districts. As efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus affect business after business, even families who used to be able to afford groceries may struggle to put enough food on the table.

Many school districts have designated pickup sites where families can get breakfast and lunch for children ages 1 to 18. Denver will also provide meals to people who are older than 18 but still enrolled in school, a category that includes many young adults with disabilities.

In most cases, districts are not asking for any paperwork related to either income or residency, but parents or caregivers will need to bring the children with them. Schools and community sites will have drive-up stations where people can pick up one lunch and one breakfast for each child. Adams 14 officials will now allow students to also show up alone and still get a meal.

In some cases, school districts are also providing family food boxes.

The Colorado Department of Education has received a waiver from the federal government that allows school districts to provide meals to students during closures without the usual requirement that students eat together. Additional waivers allow meals to be served outside of schools and provide flexibility in what food can be included.
The map below shows Denver metro area food distribution sites.

If you click here, you can enter your address and find the site closest to you. Some Denver recreation centers are also providing dinner to children aged 18 and younger and family food boxes.

Note the dates during which food pickup will be available, as some districts are not offering food service during the week that would have been their spring break.

The Denver Public Schools Foundation is also raising money to provide food to adults and to give out weekend food bags. You can donate here.

If school closures extend longer, food distribution in most cases will continue as well.

If your metro area school district pickup site or community agency isn’t on the map, please send the information to us at meals@chalkbeat.org.

🔗Denver area meal distribution sites

Schedules and meal-types vary by site. Open the address sheet document here.

🔗Instructions (Desktop)
  1. Open the map and click the Search button.
  2. Search for your address to find nearby meal distribution sites. Schedules and meal types vary by site.
  3. Select the meal distribution site and click the Direction button.
  4. Find the directions to the meal distribution sites on Google Maps.

🔗Instructions (Mobile)

🔗I don’t have both Google Drive and Google Maps installed on my device
  1. Open the map and scroll to your neighborhood.
  2. Find and select the meal distribution site to view the schedule and meal type.
  3. Tap the direction buttons to go to Google Maps.
🔗I have both Google Drive and Google Maps installed on my device
  1. Open the map and tap the Search bar.
  2. Search for your address to find nearby meal distribution sites.
  3. Tap the name of the meal distribution site to view the schedule and meal type. Tap the direction buttons to go to Google Maps.
🔗Editor’s Note: This map was last updated: 3/27/2020, 5:28 p.m. MT

We’re doing our best to keep this resource up to date. Given our limited staff resources, we’ll be updating this map about once a day. It’s possible meal distribution sites on this map may have closed or moved, and there could be other sites in the area we don’t know about yet. We recommend calling ahead or checking local district websites to confirm that a location is still open. If you have information we should know about a site that is or isn’t on this map, please email us at meals@chalkbeat.org. Given how fast this story is developing, we will likely change our approach to maintaining this resource as circumstances shift. We’ll listen to you in making the decisions, and keep you updated as things change. We are trying to be as transparent as possible as we all navigate these extraordinary times.