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State draws attention to summer child nutrition help

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Flanagan Food
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan hands out bagged lunches as part of a summer nutrition program. Brian Bakst | MPR News

As soon as a specialized food truck rolled around the corner, about a dozen young children scurried from a Roseville park playset and took their place in line.

They played with a bubble machine until the window swung open and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan was ready to hand out bag lunches with pretzels, cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables as well as milk cartons. 

She was there Friday to draw attention to summer nutrition programs in the Twin Cities and around the state.

“We know there’s a nutrition gap and that the kids who eat lunch during the school year don’t always have access to food during the summer,” Flanagan said after everyone got their meal. “So this is a way to close some of those gaps and make sure that our kids have some access to nutritious meals.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, there were 3.4 million meals served last summer at about 1,000 sites statewide. The agency notes that it is only about 19 percent of children who depend on school meals during the academic year.

The federal government reimburses the locally administered programs for the cost of the food in the summer.

“If you show up and you’re a kid, you get a meal. No questions asked. So I think that’s important that kids who need to access it, access it. It removes the stigma,” said Flanagan, who often mentions that she received free-and-reduced lunch as a child and was a youth worker later on. “And we’re just feeding kids, and that’s a good thing to do.”

Details about times and locations of the mobile and recreational center food service are available online, through a phone application or by dialing 211.