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Federal Fund Bridges Summer Hunger Gap for MN Kids

June 8, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - Once school dismisses for the year, summer can be a hungry time for Minnesota kids, because during the school year, one-third of school-age children rely on free or reduced-price lunch for two-thirds of their daily food. Late last week, Senator Al Franken and Hunger Solutions Minnesota announced a one-million dollar grant to bridge the summer hunger gap for the state's children.

The executive director of Hunger Solutions, Colleen Moriarty, says the funding is good news for food shelves that are facing a lean season.

"This is really an effort to get as much food as we can out to the food shelves, to families, so that they have enough food to feed their children during the summer. And the donations to food shelves themselves really go down in the summers, so this couldn't come at a better time for children throughout our state."

The emergency fund was established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the stimulus bill, and helps states serve more families during the economic downturn. To be eligible for the funding, Hunger Solutions leveraged a matching grant from the organization Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless.

Grant applications were sent to eligible food shelves across the state. Moriarty says food shelves are encouraged to find creative ways to reach out to kids this summer.

"Hook up with the youth sports programs, look at backpacks, do specially designed meals for kids. And a lot of these kids who are a little bit older may be alone during the day, so products that are safe for them to prepare are important."

Emphasizing sound nutrition and getting as many fresh fruits and vegetables into the hands of children is also a priority, says Moriarty. She estimates that the program will help 400,000 Minnesota children this summer. Grant funding will run from July 1 through September 30.

Sharon Rolenc/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MN