A group of local students are planning to use grant funds to teach their peers how easy it is to whip up a healthy, inexpensive meal.
The Pueblo Food Project Youth Council was awarded a $10,450 grant from the Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger to implement a project aimed at alleviating student food insecurity over the summer.
They were the only youth-authored proposal to receive funding from the organization’s COVID-19 emergency hunger relief efforts.
The council will distribute meal kits to Pueblo students that include a list of local food pantries, fresh ingredients and a recipe card. That card will have a link to an instructional video that students can follow along and reference later. They aren't chefs by any means, but it's kids teaching one another kitchen basics.
They will partner with Pueblo School District 60’s summer meal program to reach the students that most need access to healthy foods.
“We know that a lot of young people are left to fill their time on their own because parents are working. So the idea behind creating straightforward, healthy recipes that anyone can do gives young people a little more choice when they might not have another option,” said Monique Marez, director of the Pueblo Food Project.
It’s a two-fold goal to provide access to fresh, local ingredients and educate their peers on how to prepare a simple meal for themselves. A survey that the council put out earlier this year revealed that some high school and college students eat just one meal per day.
“It’s about educating people not only about local foods, but how inexpensive it can be to create different meals from local and nutritious foods,” Geonna King, a senior at South High School, said.
“We want to give people the open availability to branch out of just the meals that we provided them.”
Feeding America estimated that 14.1% of Pueblo County residents were food insecure in 2018. Food insecurity refers to a measure of the availability and accessibility of healthy food.
“A lot of people don’t understand that there is a lot of food insecurity, and a lot of people don’t know where their next meal is going to come from — especially talking to our peers and noticing that people only eat one or two meals a day. It’s impactful,” King said.
The council is prioritizing local providers, such as Mauro, Milberger and Musso Farms, over chain supermarkets to buy the ingredients for the meal kits. They are including recipes that connect to Pueblo’s culinary culture, such as spaghetti and meatballs, veggie tacos and a healthier green chili.
Marez said it’s significant that the grant money is going back to local farmers and a recovering economy.
“These young people, without realizing it, are contributing to the economic development of our community,” she said. “I think that is really exceptional.”
To request a meal kit, visit the Pueblo Food Project's Facebook page.
The youth council will open its next round of applications in August with the goal to have a representative for each Pueblo County high school and college. You can find out more at pueblofoodproject.org.
Chieftain reporter Sara Wilson can be reached via email at SWilson@gannett.com or on Twitter @WilsonSaraJane.