Bus stops summer hunger

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The wheels on the bus go round and round.

The wheels also bring food to the hundreds of children in the Golden area who may not have a steady source of food during the summer.

Beginning July 1, a new program called the Snack-n-Wagon will bring food to an estimated 100 area youth, providing a nutritious lunch and some entertainment. The new wagon — a converted school bus that was previously used for microbrew tours in Boulder — is an extension of the Golden Backpack Program that helps to feed 500 area students every weekend during the school year. Golden Backpack founding organizer and executive director Peggy Halderman said the organization has long recognized that while the program takes summer vacation off, hunger does not.

“The word from the community was, 'We love what you do, now do it year round,’” said Halderman.

So the Backpack Program, along with its major backers in Golden Rotary and the faith-based community, started working on a summer program plan.

That was when the school bus/beer bus suddenly became available to any area nonprofit that wanted to use it. The Golden community took the offer and got to work on converting what Halderman called “this goofy beer bus” into a mobile feeding station.

“It’s going to be one of those iconic vehicles driving through the community,” Hillside Community Church Pastor Dan Thoemke said.

The Community Faith in Action partnership, led by Thoemke, helped organize community volunteers to do much of the renovation. The City of Golden has given the bus a tune-up and found storage space for it in the city garage.

“It’s truly been a community project,” Thoemke said.

The community also helped the Snack-n-Wagon project win $20,000 in funding through an online contest held by Wal-Mart.

“Every time we turn around, the community has helped get things done,” Halderman said.

The completed bus, now outfitted with running water, a food service counter, and preparation table, will make two stops every weekday between July 1 and Aug. 9. Halderman said each location was chosen based on feedback from the schools, police, and the faith-based community about where the highest concentration of potentially hungry children would be.

Snack-n-Wagon organizers are estimating around 50 children will be fed at each site. They say that if all goes well this year, the program could expand to three or more sites in 2014.

At each site, the Snack-n-Wagon volunteers will set up a shade structure, tables chairs, and a hand washing station. Baskets to share unwanted food, and to trade books will also be set up. Age-appropriate music will also be played at each site.

“We’re going for a fun atmosphere. The more kids we can attract, the more it’ll be the cool place to be,” Halderman said.

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