Throughout the school year, children are guaranteed access to balanced meals; those children go without adequate nutrition over the summer. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 13.1 million children under age 18 are living in “food-insecure families.” Not all of those families are eligible for Federal Assistance.
Moreover, a food-insecure child is more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school, be impaired in language and motor skills, and “have more social and behavioral problems.” Hunger Impact Partners is a Feeding America program that provides meals for children over the summer.
Ellie Lucas, Chief Executive Officer of Hunger Impact Partners, said, “In Minnesota, right now, we have about 500,000 kids who are regularly missing meals. We wanted to make children at the center of our [mission]. We want to help empower youth to seek and find places that they will be able to access a free meal throughout the summer.”
Hunger Impact Partners developed “Summer Eats Minnesota,” a simple app that can be downloaded from the Apple store or the Google store. Lucas formerly ran Hunger Free Minnesota and partnered with organizations across the state, including the Feeding America Food Bank to get the [food access] movement going.
Hunger Free Minnesota fed children and helped recently unemployed adults to access food support programs. Lucas described why the app is so important; “We should not have this high of concentration of kids going hungry as we do.
Adults can access services and food shelves; senior [citizens] have access to congregate dining and Meals on Wheels. But, if a child does not have food in the refrigerator or money to purchase food, [that child is] at a disadvantage.”
Lucas continued, “When summer rolls around, it is just a really difficult time for kids to resource these meals. There are many food access programs across the state, [there are] school districts, parks, [recreation centers], and community partners that provide … free meals to anybody that shows up and wants to participate.”
Once the app is downloaded, you can see where food is being served in nearby communities. There are also times, locations, and the meals being served. Meals include, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, or a combination of them all at various sites.
“Another cool feature of the app,” said Lucas said the app allows users to access menus and share service locations with family and friends through an email link.”
The Summer Eats Minnesota app also has a link to the Hunger Impact Partners website where community members will find posters and other handouts to support and market the program.
“The whole idea here is that we want kids to stay fed throughout the summer and [eat] nutritious meals. We are the first in the nation to do this,” Lucas proudly told MSR.
Wondering how you can help spread the word about this app? If you are in a human service field, working with families, this is a perfect resource to share with them. It is a great conversations starter for friends, family and neighbors.
For people who want to volunteer handing out the meals or putting up posters, the information can be found on the app. Lucas would also appreciate community organizations putting up posters to help spread the word to help families find Summer Easts Minnesota programs.
As long as Minnesota continues to have a food access concern for families, Hunger Impact Partners will continue improving services and marketing strategies to meet the needs.
Brandi Phillips is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.