Free take-home meals will be available for Minnesota students through the summer, as schools and community groups that offered meals during the school year shift from emergency operations into the regular summer food program.

Typically, meals provided during the summer have to be eaten on site. But this year, students can also pick up the meals to eat at home.

The Summer Food Service Program, run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, begins July 1 and goes through Aug. 31.

Families can find nearby food distribution sites by downloading the Free Meals for Kids app, calling the Minnesota Food Helpline at 1-888-711-1151, or visiting Hunger Impact Partners at hungerimpactpartners.org. After July 6, families can find sites by texting "food" to 877-877 for information in English or "comida" to 877-877 for information in Spanish. Information is also available by calling the 2-1-1 helpline, or on the USDA's Summer Meal Site Locator at fns.usda.gov/meals4kids.

Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said in a statement that the economic hardship created by the COVID-19 pandemic means more families are depending on the free meals this summer.

Between mid-March and mid-June, the emergency version of the summer food program provided more than 22 million meals.

"The quick work our schools did this spring to create a meal delivery or pickup program for our students during these uncertain times was incredible," Ricker said. "It is critical we build off our momentum to meet the nutritional needs of our students throughout the summer."