For most kids across the metro area, time off school during the holidays is filled with plentiful baked goods and large family meals that leave them stuffed.
But winter break presents a challenge for families who have a difficult time making ends meet and rely on the free breakfasts and lunches that come with their kids’ school days.
If some parents “hardly have enough to make it by in a regular month, then you have the pressures of Christmas, the ability to be able to feed your kids when they’re out of school is huge,” said Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, a public policy organization that works to ensure people have access to healthy food.
In Minneapolis Public Schools, meals are available at Winter Break Academy, an academic recovery program the district offers. High school students are given breakfast, and all kindergarten through eighth-graders attending the academy can eat breakfast and lunch at school, according to the school district.
During the summer, about 36,000 Minnesota kids each week get lunch by way of federally funded Summer Food Service Program, according to the Hunger Solutions website. Minneapolis schools operates a summer food program as a local sponsor of the federal program.
But there isn’t a Minneapolis schools districtwide program that offers meals during winter break. The district said many homeless families stay in shelters with meals.
About 63 percent of students in Minneapolis schools qualified for free lunch program in the 2015-2016 year, according to Minneapolis schools data.
Nonprofit meal program Loaves and Fishes is an option for families to get food during the holidays, Moriarty said, as are Boys and Girls Clubs. The community is generous during the holidays, Moriarty said, but hunger doesn’t disappear when the holidays end.
“It’s more than Christmas Day,” she said. “It’s more than just one meal.”