Mobile app helps to feed children in the summertime

Come summertime, free nutritious meals for kids can be as easy as a click away. A new mobile phone app piloted in Minneapolis showing kids where to get free nutritious meals has expanded across Minnesota. Hunger Impact Partners, a local nonprofit aimed at nourishing children so they get a healthy start in life to support academic performance and healthy outcomes led the development and expansion.


The app, called Summer Eats Minnesota, is free at the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Powered by GPS, it shows locations of summer food sites, their menus and days and hours of operation. Kids 18 and under can show up without prior signup for free meals at these open site locations, including park and recreation sites, community centers, libraries and schools. The app shows the distance and directions to the nearest sites.


“Summer can be a difficult time for kids because they don’t get regular school meals,” said Ellie Lucas, CEO of Hunger Impact Partners. “This app is an easy way to find free summer meals, and we hope everyone – both children and adults – will download Summer Eats Minnesota so it will be available around mealtimes. We developed the app in partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minnesota Department of Education so we could reach more children throughout the summer months.”


“Hunger does not take a vacation in the summer; knowing where to find a healthy meal is so crucial for so many of our families while school is out,” said Bertrand Weber, Culinary and Wellness Services Director of Minneapolis Public Schools. “This app will provide families and students the location of available meals near them, the menu and time of service. The summer menu is designed to provide a healthy blend of kids’ favorites that incorporate whole grain goodness, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and milk.”


Summer is a tough time for kids who have relied on nutritious meals at school, and many don’t know how to access food programs. In fact, Minnesota ranked 23rd in 2015 among 50 states in feeding children in the summer, with summer food programs operating at 43 percent capacity. “This means that nearly two-thirds of kids in the state who are eligible for the federally reimbursed summer meals are going without,” Lucas said. “We estimate there’s a potential of 17 million meals for children in the summer, with an estimated $33 million in corresponding federal reimbursements.”


The Summer Food Service Program is a U.S. Department of Agriculture program administered by the state Department of Education. It reimburses food providers who serve healthy meals to children and teens in low-income areas in the summer.


Locations for feeding sites in Columbia Heights include Columbia Heights High School, 1400 49th Ave. NE, Highland Elementary, 1500 49th Ave. NE, Family Service Center, 1440 49th Ave. NE and the UCYEC Enrichment Center, 3900 Jackson St. NE.