Summertime is filled with lazy days, family vacations, and welcomed breaks from school-year routines. But for thousands of Minnesota children, summer is also a time of food insecurity and hunger.

Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) statistics show more than forty-percent of Minnesota’s K-12 students receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year. MDE says hungry kids have difficulty concentrating on school work. In fact, the MDE says hunger is “…is one of the most severe roadblocks to the learning process.”

The National School Lunch Program and Feeding American say 22 million kids rely on school-provided meals. When school lets out for the summer, those meals go away and student hunger increases.  Health experts say hunger makes children more vulnerable to illnesses and other health issues. The MDE says lack of nutrition during the summer months “…may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins again.”

Text ‘Food’ to 877-877 – find summer meals

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to provide children with food during the summer months. Feeding America says less than four million kids access the SFSP meals, leaving a gap of 18 million children searching for summer food.

That said, finding a location serving nutritious meals is as simple as texting ‘Food’ to 877-877.  A return message will ask for a zip code. The next message will provide links to nearby locations that offer SFSP meals. People can also call 1-866-3-hungry to get access to a listing of the meal sites.

The USDA also offers an online tool to help locate SFSP meals for kids.  Here is a link to the Free Meal Mapper

Other food solutions

Hunger Solutions Minnesota is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending hunger in Minnesota.  The organization says every day 9,000 people turn to food shelves or pantries for food.  The Hunger Solutions website include search tools for finding summer meals, food shelves, dining sites, farmer’s markets, and more. Here’s a link.  

 Second Harvest Heartland is one of the largest food shelf organizations in Minnesota. They say one-third of their clients are children. That equals more than 150,000 children each year. Here are some of the food bank/food pantry programs in the Twin Cities area:

Second Harvest Heartland
Hunger Solutions
VEAP (south metro)
ICA Food Shelf  (west metro)
Anoka Food shelves (north metro)

Know Your Numbers:Summer Hunger

This information is provided by Health Fair 11 as part of its Know Your Numbers Campaign.  Health Fair 11 is a non-profit organization that operates with the support of KARE 11 TV and UCare. Learn more at www.HealthFair11.org. To find out how your organization can become an official Health Fair 11 sponsor, email healthfair@kare11.com .

Resources use for this article

Mn Department of Education 
Hunger Solutions 
Second Harvest Heartland 
United States Department of Agriculture 
Feeding American / National School Lunch Program