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Summer Nutrition: MN Lags on Summer Meals for Low-Income Children

Many Minnesota children from lower-income families don't have access to free, healthy meals during the summer like they do during the school year. (iStockphoto)
Many Minnesota children from lower-income families don't have access to free, healthy meals during the summer like they do during the school year. (iStockphoto)
July 11, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Nutrition advocates say Minnesota could be doing more to help low-income families feed their children when they're not in school.

The summer nutrition report from the Food Research and Action Center shows for every six Minnesota children who receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year, only one has access to a summer meal program.

Cathy Maes, executive director of the support group Loaves and Fishes Minnesota, says for some families in the state, a summer meal program is one of the only options they have to help keep their children fed.

"We are a summer meal gap-filler,” she states. “We do have kids that come by themselves – mom and dad are working.

“We have children that come with their grandparents. But people are working really hard out there, they're trying to make ends meet, and it's just not happening."

Nationally, the report ranks Minnesota 24th for providing access to summer meals for lower-income children.

Advocates for those families say the state could do more particularly to inform parents that the programs are available, to help feed thousands of additional children.

Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made recent changes to its summer meals program, aimed at expanding access to people living in Greater Minnesota.

"The previous model really wasn't very adaptable to rural areas, and to Greater Minnesota,” she states. “So, using the EBT card, putting additional dollars on there – along with the feeding sites that have been successful in more in urban settings – has been the way the USDA has really stepped up to meet the challenge."

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, about 870 summer meal sites are operating across the state.

To find one near you, call the Minnesota Food HelpLine at 888-711-1151.


Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN