MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Free and nutritious meals for kids can be as easy as a click away on your smartphone.
A new app can directs kids and their parents to more than 700 sites across the state of Minnesota where free snacks and lunches are being provided.
Summer Eats Minnesota shows locations of summer food sites, their menus, days and hours of operations.
Hunger Impact Partners, working with Minneapolis Public Schools and the Department of Education, created an app it hopes will help lead kids to places to eat this summer.
“Hunger Impact Partners is all about closing the hunger gap for kids,” said Ellen Lucas, CEO of Hunger Impact Partners. “If somebody’s 10 or 12 or 14 years old and they’re out and about, how can they get to one of these sites because they’re hungry and they might not have food at home?”
Nearly half a million infants and kids from birth to age 18 are at risk of hunger across the state.
The app was created to empower kids to find food, and to get them to the schools, parks, recreations centers and churches where the meals are served.
“Automatically what it will do, so it will take your GPS into account right away and it will show you the closest site near you at the top,” said Michaela Holmgren of Hunger Impact Partners.
The app also gives you step-by-step directions to the meal site.
“You can also share the location, so if you plan to go here for lunch or something, you can go ahead and just share this with someone,” Holmgren said. “You can say, ‘Hey, I’m here, let’s eat lunch here.'”
And it also lets you see what’s being served.
“Gives you a snack menu, a lunch and supper menu, so today is Wednesday you can head on in for some taco salad,” Holmgren said.
Summer can be a difficult time for some kids because they don’t get regular school meals.
Only two-thirds of the kids in Minnesota who are eligible for summer meals are going without them right now. The hope is this app will lead more young people to these nutritious meals.
“I’d like to see this thing not only have it be robust in the state of Minnesota but to be all over the nation,” Lucas said. “It is something that we can do. We can close the meal gap for kids in the summer.”
More than 1,100 people so far have downloaded the Summer Eats app, and are using the free meal sites.
The summer meals are available not just in the Twin Cities, but across the entire state.