Lunch Lab Provides No-Cost Lunch For Youth All Summer

Delicious Dishes and Fun, Educational Activities Planned Everyday

By Kelsey Hammon Communications Coordinator Food Bank for Larimer County May 20, 2024

When it comes to summer picnics in Larimer County, 

families need only to grab their favorite picnic blanket. 

The Lunch Lab will take care of the rest.

All summer long, the Lunch Lab mobile food trucks will be visiting parks, libraries, and neighborhoods to distribute no-cost lunches for kids every weekday.

The program, which is part of the Food Bank for Larimer County’s summer kids cafe, kicks off May 28 in Loveland and May 31 in Fort Collins.

Parents and guardians are invited to come check out what the Lunch Lab has to offer. Anyone 18 and under is welcome to get a meal. No registration or ID is required to receive the hot lunches. As a USDA program, youth are asked to please enjoy their meal on site.  

In addition to a delicious meal, community partners, like Evie the Mobile Library, the Museum of Discovery, CSU Energy Institute and The Gardens on Spring Creek, are pairing up with the Lunch Lab to offer fun and educational activities for kids at food truck stops.

The meals are prepared in the Food Bank’s Nutritious Kitchen by staff and volunteers. The Food Bank this summer is preparing to distribute 41,000 meals to youth. These meals include summer favorites like pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, and watermelon; corn dogs with cold, crunchy vegetables; tacos; and lasagna.

“Every morning, as I walk into the Food Bank, I can smell the delicious lunch that’s being prepped for the day and it is tantalizing,” said Kelsey Hammon, communications coordinator for the Food Bank. “I know our kitchen crew has been working since dawn making hundreds of meals for our community’s kids. We have such dedicated, compassionate, and skilled staff and volunteers. These meals are truly made with love.”

The lunch provided isn’t just delicious, it’s also nutritious and includes a whole grain, protein source, vegetable, fruit, and milk.

Finding the Lunch Lab is a snap. The Food Bank’s webpage lists all the stops, as well as what’s on the menu and the activity partner for the day.

Accompanying every Lunch Lab stop is music and lots of bubbles. For each lunch they receive, kids get a stamp on their punch card. Once they’ve eaten six meals with the Lunch Lab, they can choose a prize from a toy chest.

Parents and guardians said the Lunch Lab is a fun summer activity that also helps to save on food costs.

On a sunny day last summer at Rolland Moore Park, Patrick described how he brings all three of his grandkids to get a meal at the Lunch Lab. If he were to share anything with parents and guardians, he said he would emphasize what a great summer activity it is.

“I would just tell them it’s fun,” Patrick said. “It gets them out of the house, and we can play around at the park.”

With Feeding America reporting that nearly 12% of the county’s children are food insecure, Food Bank staff’s aim is to help close a meal gap that’s created every summer when free school food is no longer available.

Ashley, a single mom of five, said the Lunch Lab helps to save her family roughly $200 a week.

“It’s really beneficial to our family because my kids have free lunch at school, so without school lunches during the summer, it can make things harder on the family financially because we normally don’t have to plan that,” Ashley said.

Even her pickiest of eaters have found Lunch Lab favorites.

“I really like how they always have a fruit and veggie,” Ashley said. “They have something that they like and then there’s also healthy food as well. It helps to reinforce what I try to do at home with having a fruit option and having a veggie option as well.”

When her kids see the familiar face of caring staff and volunteers who distribute meals, it provides a sense of comfort.

“It provides some consistency and stability for the kids and just be able to build those close relationships,” Ashley said.  

As the weather warms and school lets out for the summer, Food Bank staff encouraged parents and guardians to visit the Lunch Lab.

“We’ve got a great menu lined up and lots of fun activities planned,” Hammon said. “We hope you’ll join us for lunch!”

Know before you go

There are no ID or registration requirements to get lunch. Anyone 18 and under can come grab food.

Where do I find the Lunch Lab?

Visit our website to see where the Lunch Lab will be stopping, get the menu and see what activities will be available on what days.

See the Lunch Lab on the go!