Summer Meal Program Brings Food and Fun
Visit the area just beyond the corner of Marion and Larpenteur in Roseville during the week and you’ll find an empty, desolate lot overgrown with weeds. But visit the same location on the weekend and you’ll find the once-vacant lot full of families eating lunch on picnic blankets, boys kicking soccer balls and girls in tightly woven braids waving bubble wands and playing tag. You’ll smell fresh watermelon and other good things to eat. You’ll probably hear music emanating from one of the nearby apartments—and you’ll hear laughter, lots of laughter.
That’s because kids age 18 and younger that stop by this lot on the weekend will be treated to not only a healthy meal, but an array of healthy activities, including jump ropes, hula-hoops, soccer balls and bubble wands. After lunch — Asian chicken salad wraps, cucumber slices and watermelon were on the menu, along with popsicles for dessert, the day we visited — kids enjoy playing and parents enjoy socializing with their neighbors. It’s all part of the new summer meal program facilitated by The Sheridan Story and Grace Church, with the help of a grant from Second Harvest Heartland.
Kristi Shaw is a volunteer with Grace Church and Second Harvest Heartland.
“I love that the kids come here to eat, but stay to play,” she said. “I even bring my own kids along to help serve food and hang-out with the neighborhood kids. Everyone has fun. The parents are kind and grateful. We have a lot of happy customers.”
The happy customers are mostly young, low-income families, who live in the apartment buildings that flank the empty lot. They’re the reason The Sheridan Story decided to bring its summer meals program to this neighborhood.
“It was a very intentional choice on our part,” said Christine Dummann, The Sheridan Story’s summer programs manager. “We met with community members and city leaders to help determine where we’d have the greatest impact. This is city-owned land that will soon be turned into a park with a lot of families nearby. It’s really the perfect location for our program.”
Dummann said implementing a summer meals program was a natural step for her organization, in its fifth program year.
“Our main focus during the year is on our weekend backpack program, and we don’t get a lot of face-to-face time with kids,” she said. “This summer, I’ve had the chance to spend time with the kids we serve. We learn their names. One dad comes every week with his three sons.”
On a typical weekend afternoon, Dummann said, the program serves anywhere from 35 to 50 kids.
“I think we’ll continue to grow the number of kids we feed,” she said. “We’re still trying to get the word out. We put up flyers in all the apartments. One apartment manager has been especially helpful in promoting the program. He thinks what we’re doing here is great.”
Rob Williams founded The Sheridan Story in 2013, after seeing how big the need was in his community. He said that while it’s still too early to gauge the impact of the summer meal program in Roseville, the anecdotal feedback he’s received has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I think families will keep coming back,” he said. “We’re always looking for new ways we can fill the gaps to food access that kids face and we’re always trying to improve.”
Sanjita has visited the meal site with her two, young sons and nephews every weekend since it opened on June 16.
“Sometimes we have no time to shop or money to pay for food because it’s so expensive,” she said. “This is very nice to have here. I like coming here and my kids like the food — especially the watermelon.”
Find a Meal Distribution Site Near You
Looking for a free summer meal program in your neighborhood? Use the USDA’s meal mapper, or text “food” to 877-877 to find free meals in your area.