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On the Frontlines of Hunger

Dan Sharp, '84, leads the way for hunger relief for local kids

School lunches aren’t anything like they were when Dan Sharp was a student in Mesa County Valley School District 51. He’s made sure of that.

“Providing good, quality nutrition leads to better performance in the classroom,” said Sharp. “I always wanted to do my part to help kids and families who want to eat better.”

As the school district’s director of food and nutrition services, a position he’s held since 2007, Sharp is committed to ensuring students have access to healthy and nutritious meals whether they’re in school or not.

In 2015, Sharp and his team collaborated with Western Colorado Community Foundation (WCCF) to launch the Lunch Lizard program, a mobile meal program that delivers nutritious meals to students in need during the summer. This innovative project was funded with grants from WCCF and made possible by Sharp’s inspiring servant-style leadership, which he credits to his education at CMU.

After graduating from CMU with an associate degree in accounting, Sharp spent more than 20 years in the hotel and resort industry. He also earned his bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Colorado Christian University and has taught as an adjunct professor at CMU.

“Everything I’ve done [professionally] has always been linked to the education I received at Mesa,” he said.

Sharp’s first objective with the school district was to overhaul the department’s budget and make it run more efficiently. Today, the department is self-sustaining and feeds more than 20,000 students. He added healthy snack stations and salad bars to keep students energized throughout the day, and implemented a new model for school meals that replaced processed foods with fresher options made from scratch.

With more than half of the community’s children on free or reduced lunch programs, Sharp is an innovator and leader in making sure children are set up for success in the way that he knows best.

“I’m most proud of my team. They’re the frontline heroes. They adopted the role of becoming the leaders in providing hunger relief in this community. They want to be part of the change,” said Sharp.


Graduation year: 1984

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Profession: Director of food and nutrition services at Mesa County Valley School District 51

Most memorable book: Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming

Favorite vacation location: The Bahamas

Hobbies: Hiking and river rafting

Favorite CMU professor: Dr. David Rees (economics)

• Launched the Lunch Lizard curbside meal service to feed children during the summer
• Moved to a model where school cafeterias make meals from scratch
• Added healthy snack stations and salad bars to most schools in the district
• Initiatives featured in Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger



Written by Cloie Sandlin