Lake County School District employees accept a check from the Life Time Foundation for $220,920. The donation will go towards fresh, healthy meals for students. Pictured in the back row, from left to right is: Taylor Trelka, Julie Mehle, Paul Anderson, Bethany Massey and Maria Lizardo. Norma Rodriguez, Adriana Rodriguez and Alma Rosales are pictured in front.

Leadville Race Series owner and producer Life Time, Inc., recently announced a partnership with Lake County School District. Specifically, the Life Time Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit and charitable arm of Life Time, has partnered with the Lake County School District (LCSD) to increase the amount of scratch-cooked and freshly prepared meals and to assist in the procurement of foods that positively impact a student’s health. The partnership will impact more than 1,000 students across Lake County’s four schools over the course of the next three years.

The partnership officially kicked off earlier this summer with an immediate grant of approximately $88,000 to help LCSD cover costs related to helping families and students during the COVID-19 crisis. The grant specifically helped to fund free meal delivery for students throughout the summer months.

Of the grand total of $220,920 in grant funding for the district, $65,920 was generated by 212 Leadville Race Series athletes who generously chose to donate their already-paid registration fees to the Life Time Foundation after all of the Leadville Race Series (LRS) events were cancelled this summer due to COVID-19. The remaining $155,000 was generated by over 2,000 participants of the Leadville 100,000 Foot Challenge, a virtual challenge put together by the LRS in which riders had eight weeks and runners had 10 weeks to complete 100,000 feet of elevation gain.

“We’re extremely excited to have Lake County on-board as one of our national school partners in the fight for healthier food,” said President of Events and Media at Life Time, Kimo Seymour, who also serves on the Life Time Foundation Board of Directors. “Leadville and the greater community has truly become an extension of our Life Time family and to be able to deepen our impact here is important to us all.”

Moving forward, this three year partnership will center around the creation of sustainable change through the procurement of clean-label foods and increase of meals cooked from scratch, while helping the district keep highly-processed foods out of school meals. The Life Time Foundation’s main commitment with the district will be to serve as a supportive partner in removing what they call the “harmful seven,” highly processed and artificial ingredients identified as negatively impacting student’s health. These ingredients include: trans fats and hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, hormones and antibiotics, processed and artificial sweeteners, artificial colors & flavors, artificial preservatives and bleached flour.

With support from the district’s administration, LCSD’s food services team, led by Director of Food Services Julie Mehle, has existing scratch-cooking practices in place that will help create a solid foundation from which the new partnership will be built. The collaboration between both organizations kicked off with guidance by a chef and school food expert, which led to improvements to its menus, including the introduction of locally-sourced beef patties. The district is currently exploring other opportunities for local partnerships.

“We are very impressed with the district’s passion and Ms. Mehle’s personal commitment to our partnership and we are excited to begin assisting with “harmful seven”-free food procurement, staff training, and possible software and equipment needs that the scratch cooking approach requires,” said Registered Dietitian and Life Time Foundation Nutrition Project Manager Megan Flynn. 

The district’s goal of offering a menu free of the “harmful seven” begins with an initial label review, which will later be conducted annually to track progress by Flynn. Outside of the school kitchens, the Life Time Foundation’s education curriculum, “Hooray 4 Healthy,” will be made available for students and parents. 

As of August, the Life Time Foundation was partnering with 25 school districts across the country, which represent 242 million meals served to 1.5 million students per year.

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