The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is seeking sponsors and meal sites for this year's Summer Food Service Program as part of a national effort to combat childhood hunger.
The program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the state education department, is looking for organizations that can provide free nutritious meals to children during the summer break.
"We talk a lot about the achievement gap here in Minnesota, but we also have a nutrition gap," said Daron Korte, assistant commissioner for the MDE. "For students who live in poverty, the only nutritious meal they're getting each day is the one that they get at school."
The Summer Food Service Program was designed to close the nutrition gap by offering free meals to children 18 and under and to community members living in poverty-stricken areas.
Last summer, the state education department and more than 200 local schools and organizations banded together to serve more than 3 million children at 930 sites — schools, libraries, churches, recreation centers, camps, community centers and other sites in low-income areas.
Currently, the federal program serves only 18 percent of children from low-income families who get free or reduced-price meals during the school year. But state education officials say they are looking to surpass that number this year by targeting rural areas, where hungry families are traveling long distances to get food.
New partners will receive training, on-site logistical assistance and meal reimbursement funding from the state education department.
Interested organizations should e-mail the state education department at firstname.lastname@example.org.