Extended meals program from USDA providing lifeline for Minnesota students

(FOX 9)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently extended a summer meal program that allows schools to provide free meals to students as the country works to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

With online and in-school classes back in session, districts across the state are rolling out free meals for students.

"I think it’s extremely imperative especially with unemployment rates and families struggling with losing work ultimately," said Food and Nutrition Services Director Jeff Ansorge with Osseo schools.

Challenges brought on by the pandemic, combined with distance learning, Ansorge says, may put some children at risk.

"Childhood hunger is definitely present in Minnesota and in our school district," he explained.

The initiative from the USDA has now been extended through at least the end of the year. Breakfast and lunch meal packages include fruits, veggies and grains.

"It’s so important for them to be set up for success and ultimately come in to their day and be ready to learn," said Ansorge.

In the Osseo school district, classes resume Monday and, like most schools, depending on the learning model, food will be available for pick-up or delivery.

"It’s important that if you’re a parent out there, that you look into taking advantage of it because we have it available," said Ansorge. "Utilize our services. We’re here to support families and students at this time. We’re happy to do it."

In addition to providing meals, the Osseo district will also distribute free five-day meal boxes. It's important to note that parents have to sign up for the free meal program.