Great Plains Food Bank expanding summer meals program to meet community need

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As the need for meals across the state continues, some are preparing for the coming months.

Local organizations are gearing up to meet the needs of the community.

Over the last year, the economic impact of the pandemic has affected people in various ways — including being able to afford groceries.

“We have a lot of families coming in. We have single moms with their kids coming in. We have whole families. We’ve got a trailer court that’s not far from here that we just get kids coming by themselves after school,” said Mark Meier, the founder of Heavens Helpers Soup Cafe.

With the warmer months ahead, Heavens Helpers Soup Cafe in Bismarck says the summer months are the busiest for them, especially with kids.

“Because they’re out and about. They’re riding their bikes. And they know they can stop in here anytime for a good meal,” explained Meier.

With kids being out of school soon for summer break, organizations like the Great Plain Food Bank have identified the need for free meals in the community.

“A lot of them relied on those school meals that they would get especially this year because most places breakfast and lunch was free to those kids. So going into the summer a lot could worry about where their next meal was going to come from,” said Jenae Meske, the program manager of the Youth Summer Meals for the Great Plains Food Bank.

With record numbers over the last year, the food bank has more than doubled to 18 locations across the state for their Youth Summer Meals program; with locations in Grenora, Trenton and Bismarck.

This year they’re adding a little more to the menu.

“So it’s going to have a green component. Couple different fruit and veggie options, a protein and milk. All of that will be prepackaged together, specifically to our Bismarck site at Kiwanis Park, it will be a box. So each kid will get a box like this and it will have 5 days worth of meals in there,” explained Meske.

The food bank is expecting to serve over 840 kids at the various sites throughout the summer.

Before the pandemic kids would have to eat on-site, but since then the USDA has issued waivers, granting families the opportunity to take meals and food home with them.

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