One in five families with children in Minnesota faces hunger or food insecurity. This means that children do not always receive three meals a day or sometimes skip meals. Much of this happens on the weekends and during summer vacation when there is no access to free or reduced school meals.
Hunger Solutions Minnesota (HSM) has partnered with Minnesota Department of Human Services to help bridge the food access gap with a new Summer Backpack Program grant. The $101,000 in grant funds was awarded to HSM. HSM has allocated the funds to four greater Minnesota food banks to provide additional food to at risk-children for 12 weeks this summer.
Colleen Moriarty, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota said, “We are thrilled to offer this generous grant opportunity to our statewide food bank partners. The constant demand for more emergency food is a major strain on our local response to hunger. These funds were granted to assist Minnesota at a time when the need to help feed our children is the greatest.”
Over 2,500 children in Becker County, Bemidji, Brainerd, Cass Lake, Crosby, Detroit Lakes, Duluth, Itasca, Koochiching County, Longville, Perham, Rochester, St. Charles, and Waseca will receive weekly bags of highly nutritious, but easy to prepare foods like milk, oatmeal, and nuts. The food banks are working with local community programs such as food shelves and Boys and Girls Clubs to reach low-income families with the much needed nutrition.
During summer vacation, about 36,000 children a week in Minnesota eat lunch via the federally funded Summer Food Service Program. That represents only 14 out of every 100 eligible children. There are barriers to food access for low-income children in greater Minnesota. One of the main barriers is transportation, especially in counties with small populations spread out across large distances.
Grass roots organizations like food shelves have a unique ability to address the food needs of children in our communities. Each summer, Minnesota food shelves help families fill this nutritional gap, but this is during the season when donations are at their lowest so access to this additional food is important.
The Summer Backpack Program funding is a one-time grant made possible by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The department received a $2.1 million bonus from the USDA for increasing the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program access for eligible residents. The state’s portion accounts for 25 percent of the $1.2 million bonus; it will go toward putting healthy food on the table for low-income Minnesotans. The remaining 75 percent of the funding went to counties for their work with SNAP recipients.
“One of the most important things we can do to encourage the strong and healthy development of our children is to ensure they have enough nutritious food,” said Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. “These bonus dollars will help more kids have the right fuel to learn, exercise and explore.”