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Addressing Summer Hunger with a Smart Phone App

June 17, 2019 07:23 PM

(ABC 6 News) - In Minnesota, 500,000 children regularly miss meals and only 20% participate in summer meal programs according to Hunger Impact Partners.
 
"During the summer months when children are let out of school, we see a big increase in our need because a lot of these children who are so reliant on their two meals a day at school with lunch and snacks provided for them are suddenly faced with two additional meals being needed at home,” said Communications and Events Manager for Channel One Regional Foodbank Jessica Sund.
 
She said many families are forced to make difficult decisions over the summer.  
 
"Having to choose between childcare and groceries, or healthcare and groceries or rent and groceries. No one should ever have to make those poor choices,” she said.
 
During the summer, Channel One offers a second visit each month at the Saturday satellite locations. 
 
In between visits, a Minnesota-made smartphone app is connecting kids 18 and under with free meal options in their area. 
 
"For a long time, people were relying on traditional ways of communicating, you know the whole world is sitting right in proximity to their phones",” said Executive Director of Hunger Impact Partners Ellie Lucas.
 
Hunger Impact Partners collaborated with the Minnesota Department of Education and local public schools to develop the app Summer Eats Minnesota. 
 
"We just figured if we could put the app together that would help kids source meals it would be the most convenient and the most efficient way to do it,” she said.
 
The app is GPS powered and shows locations of summer food sites, menus and hours of operation, along with directions to get to the food sites. 
 
When the app first launched in 2017, about 1700 people downloaded it. 
 
"The second year which was last summer we increased to close to double that. This year before we even started serving meals we were at 5300,” she said.
 
Soon they hope to translate the materials into Spanish, Hmong, and Somali and bring the software to other states across the country. 
 
"We're working with Maryland, Ohio, and Texas. We're essentially providing all the information that we had that we did to develop this,” she said.
 
For now, the app is available to Minnesotans for free at the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. 

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