Preparing Kids for Summer Fun—Not Summer Hunger
From beach days to bike rides to countless hours outdoors in the sunshine, many people have fond memories of childhood summers. Summer is often celebrated as a time of freedom and adventure for kids as they are released from the requirements of school and homework. For too many kids, however, summer freedom also comes with uncertainty. More than 40 percent of the K-12 kids in Minnesota eligible for free or reduced-price school meals lose access to the food they need when the school year ends, and summer begins. For many kids, summer can be a time of hunger.
In response to the meal gap that summer break creates, Second Harvest Heartland works with school districts, food shelves and community partners to implement, support and help expand programs that provide meals to kids during the warm-weather months. Through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), all children ages 18 and under can visit hundreds of locations across Minnesota to access free meals to help fuel their summer.
One SFSP location is Maxfield Elementary School in Saint Paul. Maxfield Elementary offers breakfast and a late lunch to children who stop by the school during June and July. The summer meals provided through SFSP are important for kids at Maxfield Elementary as 100 percent of the student population qualifies for free or reduced-price meals during the school year.
Offering Year-round Food and Support
When school is in session, Maxfield Elementary partners with The Sheridan Story to offer weekly food bags to provide students with food for the weekend. To help kids and families prepare for the summer meal gap, Maxfield Elementary annually hosts a family cookout and a large food distribution on the last day of school. At this event, students and families are encouraged to take any food they need.
During the summer, Maxfield Elementary holds two additional food distributions for families enrolled in the school’s six-week BELL Power Scholars Academy and directs families in the Rondo and Frogtown neighborhoods to weekly food distributions at St. Paul City Middle School where they can access food throughout the summer.
Deshawn Woods is an education pathway coordinator for the school. He runs the school food pantry, the Maxfield Nook, and ensures students and families receive the necessary food and household resources they need year round.
“We’ve heard from families that the Maxfield Nook is a place where they can come to and get what they need without feeling judged or belittled,” he said. “This is exactly what Maxfield hoped families would appreciate most about our fight to address food insecurity within our school and community.”
With partners such as Maxfield Elementary School and The Sheridan Story, Second Harvest Heartland can help children to remember summer as a time of outdoor adventures and excitement, rather than a time of uncertainty and hunger. Through SFSP, more children can experience the joy and freedom of summer break and create fond memories for themselves of childhood summers.
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) has hundreds of locations across Minnesota which offer free meals and snacks to children 18 years old and younger. Use the USDA’s mapping tool or text “food” to 877-877 to find nearby SFSP locations.