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Minnesota Department of Education seeks sponsors for Summer Food Service Program

ROSEVILLE  During the school year, many Minnesota families depend on free or reduced-price meals their children get at school to provide nourishment. When school is out for the summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) can provide funding for meals for children to bridge the “nutrition gap” during the summer months.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) encourages eligible schools and organizations to sponsor the SFSP and provide free meals to Minnesota children ages 18 and under when school is out for the summer. There are many low-income areas in Minnesota underserved and in need of a sponsor to operate a summer feeding site, especially in Greater Minnesota. MDE provides sponsors with SFSP training, on-site technical assistance, and meal reimbursement for providing eligible meals.

“Nutrition is one key to academic success,” said Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker. “The Summer Food Service Program provides our students the opportunity to come together in locations across the state for lunch, often paired with fun summer learning opportunities. I’m grateful for a state full of community partners who work with us in the Summer Food Service Program to serve meals to our students over the summer so they return to school in the fall ready to learn.”

Program sites are often located at local schools, recreation and community centers, parks, family housing complexes and other locations operated by youth, cultural and faith-based organizations.

Last summer in Minnesota, over 200 schools and organizations operated almost 1,000 SFSP meal sites and served over 3.6 million meals to children ages 18 and under. The summer meals program reaches about 19 percent of children from low-income families that normally receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year. MDE is looking to continue growing the program so all eligible children have access to meals over the summer months.

If you are interested in being a new sponsor, complete the SFSP Interest Survey (www.surveygizmo.com/s3/4712844/Draft-New-Summer-Food-Service-Program-Interest-Survey-New-Participants) by April 1 or contact MDE Food and Nutrition Service. If you are interested in offering meals under an existing sponsor, contact the local school district. More information about the Summer Food Service Program is available on the MDE website and USDA Summer Food Service Program website.

A sponsoring organization must be one of the following:

• Public or nonprofit private school food authority;

• Public or nonprofit private residential summer camp;

• Unit of local, municipal, county or state government;

• Public or nonprofit private college or university; or

• Any other type of private nonprofit organization.

Come summertime, free, nutritious meals for kids can be as easy as a click away. 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, typical menus and days and hours of operation. Kids up to age 18 can show up without prior sign-up for free meals at these open site locations. Learn more about Summer Eats Minnesota and promotional materials at www.summereatsmn.org.

If you have any questions, please contact MDE Food and Nutrition Service at 651-582-8526, 1-800-366-8922 (toll-free) or mde.fns@state.mn.us.

USDA programs are equal opportunity providers. View USDA’s nondiscrimination statement.