The federally funded Summer Food Service program is now underway at over 100 locations throughout Minneapolis. Meals will be provided to all children ages 1-18 without charge Monday through Friday now through August 19.
Over 340,000 meals were served last summer in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), notes MPS Food Service Business Manager Nicole Barron. This summer, “We have approximately 100 sites where we serve the meals,” says Barron, adding that typically meal locations are “where the kids are. If they are playing in the park, those are good places to serve meals. If they are enrolled in other programs during the summer, those are good places to serve meals.”
Children do not necessarily have to be enrolled in summer school to participate in the meal program, Barron explains. “A child that is not in summer school can go to one of our summer school sites and eat a breakfast and a lunch. Any child, regardless of their personal eligibility during the school year, can go [eat],” she noted.
Breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner meals are available. “Different sites have different meals,” continues Barron. “Our summer schools [sites] typically have breakfast and lunch. The parks typically have either lunch and snack, or snack and dinner. The site gets to choose what meals they want to serve based on what is going on at their site.”
Park Avenue Youth & Family Services is serving free lunch daily at Park Avenue Methodist Church, 3400 Park Avenue South, from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm through August 6 as part of its overall summer programming. Through a grant from Second Harvest and the Minnesota Vikings Children’s Fund, the organization can feed adults as well, says Park Avenue Director Tessa Tripp.
Bag lunches are served during the group’s day camp weeks (June 22-25, July 13-15, and July 27-30) “and hot meals on other days,” Tripp points out, adding that Park Avenue also has started a Saturday morning farmers’ market this summer.
Even though these are tough economic times, Barron says she doesn’t anticipate an increase in meals served this summer. “We’ve had a lot of need in Minneapolis even before the economic crisis high,” she points out. “About two-thirds of our students in Minneapolis Public Schools are eligible for free or reduced priced meals. Our percentage did go up a little bit this year, but it didn’t go up significantly.
“We’ve served over 300,000 meals in each of the last two summers,” continues Barron, “so we kind of expect to be around the same amount [this summer].”
You don’t have to be a member of Park Avenue Church to participate in the summer lunch program, Tripp stresses. After its food shelf program was discontinued due to low funds, last summer’s lunch program at Park Avenue didn’t draw many youngsters. “I think people thought that we weren’t [serving meals] anymore,” Tripp surmises. “We go door-to-door telling people about it. We are trying to tell people what we are doing.”
Admittedly, the Summer Food Service program ends before school starts in Minneapolis on August 30. According to Barron, “There will be about a week’s gap where we are not serving meals.” Therefore, “We actually extended our program this year to the 19th [of August], an extra week longer, because we wanted to make sure that we are feeding kids when they are not in school and don’t have access to those meals. This is the latest we have had [the summer food program].”
Tripp says her program is looking into extending its food program before school starts as well, but because her staff also runs an overnight camp the first week in August, and the workers from the city’s Step-Up youth program also will be gone, finding a way to continue the meals might pose a problem. However, “If we see a lot of people using it, we’ll extend it,” Tripp says.
“I encourage parents to bring their children to these sites, or have their kids go to these sites,” says Barron “We want kids to have access to healthy meals.”
For more information on the MPS Summer Food Service locations and meal times, go to the MPS Food Service Department website at
http://foodservice.mpls.k12.mn.us, or call the United Way at 211 or 651-291-0211. For more information on Park Avenue Youth & Family Services, call 612-825-6863, or go to their website, www.payfs.org.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-record er.com.