Millions of dollars in food aid for Minnesota kids

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(ABC 6 News) – With rising inflation costs around the country keeping food on the table can be hard, but there’s a spotlight this summer on how to keep children fed and healthy with well balanced meals.

Between new federal dollars allocated to EBT and local summer lunch programs, there are resources to help families.

In July over $180 million will go to around 400,000 Minnesota families in EBT or in P-EBT, which is Pandemic EBT, to help them provide healthy foods this summer. Clinical dietician Amy Roethler says structure is a huge part of balanced eating for kids.

“Really having breakfast, lunch, supper, and really not forgetting the importance of actually having structure in meals,” Amy Roethler, with PrairieCare Medical Group, said.

In the summer, that structure may go away for some families.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services says the summer P-EBT program will help restore families’ ability to provide regular, healthy meals to their kids as groceries get more expensive.

Roethler says malnutrition affects mental health and focus, but also affects kids long-term by getting disrupting brain development.

“When those things go away or that structure is gone, mental health really tends to struggle,” she said.

The state will start sending out P-EBT cards in late July, and most eligible families do not need to apply for the child to recieve a card. Families that do not automatically recieve a card but would like to apply, can do so through their schools free or reduced lunch programs.

Another option for children 18 and younger living in Rochester is Rochester Public School’s summer food service program. Children do not need to be enrolled in RPS to access it, and the program is also focused on healthy, balanced meals.

“We want to get more away from the freezer to oven stuff and get back to the basics – to scratch bake and make stuff homemade. It doesn’t have all the extra additives and stuff like that, it’s more wholesome. And salt is one of the biggest issues too,” said Rochester Public Schools Executive Chef Travis Pearce.

RPS is partnering with local mexican resturant El Carambas to offer home-made recipes to kids and expand their tastebuds.

“We wanted to do something more authenticated. With the challenging supply chain issues we’ve had, we’ve been really challenged with being able to do that,” Pearce said, noting El Carambas helped them achieve that goal.

More information on P-EBT can be found here, and Rochester Public School’s meal program here.