Parents and caregivers have one less job during the school year when kids can get food at school. But when school is out, summer can be a hungry time for Minnesota kids – and that’s in a typical year. As families recover from an unprecedented school year, this summer promises to be another unique one for kids. One thing they and their families can count on, though, is that schools and community organizations are working harder than ever to ensure that they have access to nutritious food all summer long.

How? All children and teens 18 years old and younger are invited to stop by a meal site near them and grab some free food! There are more than 1,000 sites across the state serving up tasty and nutritious meals, located at places like schools, libraries and parks.

Each meal site can serve up to two meals per day, like breakfast and lunch, or a snack and dinner. This summer, some sites are serving bundled meals, so kids have food at home for multiple days. And at certain sites, parents and caregivers are able to pick up meals on behalf of the kids. Check with your site to learn more.

There’s no need to register before visiting and no personal information or identification will be required. Simply show up and receive food. No one – especially kids – should face hunger, and there’s no shame in accessing free meals, even if your family has never needed to before. Think of accessing these meals and snacks like you’re supporting your favorite local restaurant – revenue for your school district is generated with every meal served.

If your family or a family you know could benefit from meals for kids throughout the summer, you can find a meal site near you by downloading the Free Meals for Kids app available for free download through the Apple App and Google Play stores. We have a video on our website at www.2harvest.org/summermeals showing you exactly how to navigate the app. Also be sure to check in with your local school for area-specific information.

These free community resources are needed now as much as ever. That’s because today, 1 in 7 Minnesota kids is facing hunger. That’s four kids in an average-size second grade classroom. Free meal sites work to ensure that fed kids can focus on being kids.

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we can withstand the worst of times by leaning into service, innovation and collaboration. The COVID-19 pandemic and the recovery period we’re in now have underscored how crucial community connection is when it comes to ending hunger. We at Second Harvest Heartland are proud to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program and the hundreds of meal site partners across Minnesota to ensure all our young people are fed this summer.

Learn more and help spread the word by visiting www.2harvest.org/summermeals.

JoAnna Lund is the child hunger program manager at Second Harvest Heartland, one of the largest, most efficient and most innovative hunger-relief organizations in the nation.

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