Sponsors needed to feed children during summer

Some Minnesota families who rely on free or reduced-price lunch during the school year struggle to feed their children — or find enough nutritious food — when their kids aren’t in school.

To help meet the need, the Minnesota Department of Education is looking for help feeding low-income kids during the summer. Department officials have put out a call for organizations willing to sponsor the 2011 Summer Food Service Program.

The United States Department of Agriculture funds the summer program, which in 2010 provided over 1.7 million free meals in Minnesota, with 107 sponsors and 475 sites.

“It’s hard to learn and play on an empty stomach,” state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “The Summer Food Service Program guarantees our low-income children will not lose access to the nutritious meals they receive during the regular school year.”

Cassellius encouraged schools, park and recreation programs, faith-based organizations, and other nonprofit organizations that provide educational and recreational activities for children during the summer to offer meals through the program. The food program reimburses the sponsors, and provides them with training and technical assistance.

State education officials say there are many underserved areas in need of a sponsor, particularly in greater Minnesota.

Interested schools and nonprofit organizations can learn more on the MDE website, as well as fill out an interest survey. Education officials are holding a 2011 Summer Meals information Meeting on Thursday, February 24, from 1 – 3 p.m. at the MDE in Roseville.

Julie Siple reports on hunger and related issues for Minnesota Public Radio News. MPR is a partner in the Hunger-Free Minnesota project, which helps fund her reporting.