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Backpack program to help hungry children this summer

June 14, 2013

Contact:
Martiga Lohn
Communications
651-431-2729

PDF version of news release

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) this month launched an initiative that provides food directly to low-income children and families. The initiative, called the Summer Backpack Program, is supported by bonus funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) awarded in recognition of Minnesota’s increased SNAP participation rate.

Four food banks are distributing backpacks filled with healthy food and nutritional information to children age 18 and younger in summer school, other programs and at food shelves in June, July and August.

“One of the most important things we can do to encourage the strong and healthy development of our children is to ensure they have enough nutritious food,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. “This initiative will help more kids have the right fuel to learn, exercise and explore.”

The four food banks participating in the 2013 initiative are:

  • Channel One Regional Food Bank with projects in Rochester, St. Charles and Waseca
  • Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank with a project in Duluth
  • North Country Food Bank with projects in Perham, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes and Becker County
  • Second Harvest North Central Food Bank with projects in Crosby, Cass Lake, Longville, Brainerd, and Itasca and Koochiching counties

“We are thrilled to offer this generous grant opportunity to our statewide food bank partners,” said Hunger Solutions Executive Director Colleen Moriarty. “The high demand for emergency food is a major strain on our local response to hunger. These funds were granted to assist Minnesota at a time when the need to help feed our children is the greatest.”

Using $101,000 in USDA bonus funds, the initiative will fill backpacks approximately 27,000 times this summer. Over 2,500 children will receive nutritious food about once a week.

The department received a $1.2 million bonus for increasing the state’s SNAP access for eligible residents. The state’s portion of the bonus –25 percent of the $1.2 million –will go toward putting healthy food on the table for low-income Minnesotans. The remaining 75 percent of the funding went to counties for their work with SNAP recipients.

This is one of four initiatives the department, along with its partners, is launching with the help of the state’s portion of the USDA bonus this summer to provide healthy food to low-income Minnesotans. The others focus on:

  • Providing a $5 coupon to SNAP participants purchasing fruits and vegetables at one of three Minnesota grocery stores
  • Connecting eligible, low-income Latino and Hmong communities to SNAP benefits
  • Expanding mobile food shelf capacity to provide additional food resources to seniors

“The backpack program and these other initiatives will be successful because of the collaboration of many partners to ensure low-income Minnesotans are able to put nutritious food on their tables,” said Jesson.


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