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Minneapolis Public Schools rolls out free summer meal program

MPS is offering its annual program at new locations and has expanded its food truck and "food bus" routes.

MINNEAPOLIS — This summer, Minneapolis Public Schools is offering free breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks at 100 different sites including schools, libraries, and parks and recreation centers.

"For the summer program, the actual area is what qualifies and we're not concerned about individuals that are coming to the site, if they individually qualify, because the area itself has qualified," said Sara Eugene, culinary program development and compliance coordinator with Culinary and Wellness Services.

The district alerted families about the program Monday. It comes the same day students began their first weekday of summer break after the spring teacher's strike resulted in an extended school year.

It also comes just weeks after hunger-relief organizations warned this could be Minnesota's hungriest summer in state history.

"We are definitely hearing that it is a hard season for families," Eugene said. "You have inflation. The cost of gas is going up; the cost of food is going up, so we're really grateful to be able to offer this service to families."

This year, MPS added about 15 new meal sites and expanded its mobile routes.

"We're expanding the food bus, which does cold meals, as well as what's called our Street Eats Food Truck and that serves hot meals," Eugene said. "It has a grill right there."

All of this is made possible through community partnerships and federal funding. It's how St. Paul Public Schools is also able to offer free meals to those 18 and under across 50 sites. However, home delivery and meal pickups at schools are not available this summer as they were in previous summers during the pandemic.

In the Anoka-Hennepin district, 12 school cafeterias will be open for free meals for those 18 and under.

Families are encouraged to download the Free Meals for Kids mobile app. It shows, in real-time, the sites providing food not only in Minneapolis but statewide. 

Over the weekend, President Joe Biden also signed the Keep Kids Fed Act. Congress renewed the pandemic-era measure, which ensures free lunches for all students for next school year. We're told the state education department is reviewing the bill and will give districts additional guidance soon.

The program is for anyone 18 and under. Individuals are not required to provide proof of identification or income.

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