Minnesota is the latest state to make locating meal programs easier.
The summer break may conjure up memories of ice cream trucks and snow cones, but for many kids, simply getting three square meals a day can become a challenge. According to the USDA, about 30 million students participate in the National School Lunch Program each month, which provides low-cost or free lunches during school days. Over the summer, plenty of non-profit organizations can help fill in the gap, but many families might not know where to find these meals.
But in Minnesota, students and their families can now turn to a new app called Summer Eats Minnesota. The free app, available both in the Apple App Store and Google Play, uses GPS to help kids find the nearest locations offering free and nutritious meals throughout the state at places like parks and recreation sites, community centers, libraries and schools. The app also provides menus, hours of operation, images and even directions on how to get there. Plus, anyone under 18 can show up to eat, no registration required.
Summer Eats Minnesota was developed by Hunger Impact Partners, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, in partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minnesota Department of Education. “Summer can be a difficult time for kids because they don’t get regular school meals,” Ellie Lucas, CEO of Hunger Impact Partners, said in a statement. “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.”
According to Lucas, nearly two-thirds of kids eligible for federally-reimbursed summer meals aren’t taking advantage of the program. Meanwhile, as Modern Farmer points out, 91 percent of US teenagers have access to smartphones and tablets. Summer Eats can hopefully bridge the gap between these two statistics. And Minnesota isn’t the only place with these types of apps. The Massachusetts-based nonprofit Project Bread released a similar app called SummerEats for its state last year. And in 2014, a student in Georgia created an app called FoodFinder that provides a similar service there. Hopefully, more of these apps continue to pop up so families understand that just because school is out, it doesn’t mean kids have to miss out on a nutritious lunch.