MN Food Resources for Kids When School Ends

MN Food Resources for Kids When School Ends Click to Enlarge

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Another school year soon comes to an end in Minnesota, and for the one-in-six kids from families considered "food insecure," that could mean a long, hungry summer if not for the state's Summer Food Service Program.

The federally funded nutrition program is open to youth age 18 and under, and is an extension of the National School Lunch Program. Child hunger specialist JoAnna Lund with Feeding America said no registration is required, and some sites even provide activities in addition to a healthy meal.

She noted that food insecurity for any length of time is detrimental to children's health and development.

"And so, kind of from an emotional point, kids should be having fun during the summer, but they're really caught up in, 'Where's my next meal going to come from?'" Lund said. "And it starts to affect their educational progress."

Sixty-four percent of children in Minneapolis schools and 70 percent in St. Paul qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. Lund said the Summer Food Service Program is being used by only about 10-15 percent of the students who need it and are eligible.

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Minnesota has more than 700 summer meal sites for kids at community centers, libraries, food trucks in parks, churches and schools. Lund said the turnout would be higher, but many families either don't know about them, or can't get there.

"The biggest problem, other than the awareness piece, is transportation," she said. "If the parents are working, if it's not in an urban area where there's not transportation, it's really hard for kids to get there."

Lund said like the school lunch program, summer meals meet nutrition standards, so kids will get protein, grains, vegetables and fruits. To make finding a meal site as easy as possible, Hunger Impact Partners has introduced a phone app called "Summer Eats Minnesota."

"If you download that on your smartphone, it's location-based, and it will give you the times and locations of meal sites closest to where you are," Lund said.

She said the smartphone app even includes the day's menu at many locations serving summer meals to children.

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