Meet Up and Chow Down

Meet Up and Chow Down children and volunteers

United Way of Northeastern Minnesota logo and Meet Up and Chow Down logo (black and white sandwich with red letters Meet Up and Chow Down)Meet Up and Chow Down sites are closed June 19th in observance of the Juneteenth federal holiday.

Meet Up and Chow Down is United Way of Northeastern Minnesota's free summer lunch program for children on the Iron Range, provided through support from the USDA and Minnesota Department of Education's Summer Food Service Program. 

Volunteers will be handing out free lunches at public sites across the region 12-1 pm Monday-Thursday starting June 3, 2024.

Thanks to a generous supporter, additional volunteers will be at Meet Up and Chow Down sites on Thursdays handing out Summer Buddy Backpacks weekend meal kits!

For more information, contact UWNEMN Community Impact Coordinator Michelle Lampton.

Yellow sunburst reads FREE SUMMER LUNCH FOR KIDS 18 & YOUNGER. Below, blue background with white letters read VOLUNTEERS ALSO NEEDED! Meet Up and Chow Down lunches are served 12-1 pm Monday-Thursday June 3-August 20th at Biwabik City Park, Chisholm Kiwanis Park, Cook Public Library, Hibbing Bennett Park, Hibbing HRA Playground, Hoyt Lakes Public Library, Keewatin City Park, Mt. Iron Public Library, Nashwauk Rec Center, Virginia AEOA, Virginia Pine Mill Court, and Virginia Olcott Park.

Meet Up and Chow Down is not possible without the help of volunteers!

Volunteers are needed this summer at the following sites:

Yellow finger with click marks, text reads Click the site name for full list of volunteer needs

What to expect: Volunteers pick up coolers at a designated location in their community, transport coolers to Meet Up and Chow Down site, set up Meet Up and Chow Down signage, distribute and track lunches, and return materials to the pickup site for the next day's volunteers. All-told, expect about 1.5 hours/day.

The program is Monday through Thursday weekly. For site consistency, please consider selecting one day per week for the summer if you are able. A basic training which takes about 30 minutes has to be completed prior to volunteering. 

Thursday Meet Up and Chow Down volunteers will be joined by Summer Buddy Backpacks volunteers who will bring additional food for children to take home for the weekend.

Check out all UWNEMN volunteer opportunities!

In red, Reminder with arrow pointing to text

  • Lunches are served first come, first served and are available rain or shine.
  • Children must be present to receive lunches.
  • Summer Buddy Backpacks weekend meal kits will also be available at Meet Up and Chow Down sites on Thursday. 
  • Lunches will not be available June 19 or July 1-4 in observance of federal holidays.
  • We ask families remember to be kind to the volunteers who are giving of their limited summer hours to hand out these meals out of the goodness of their hearts and care for our local children!

Blonde girl in tie dye dress receives bag lunch handed to her by gray haired woman in a park.What is the need?

More than 1,000 children in the United Way of Northeastern Minnesota (UWNEMN) service territory on the Iron Range are enrolled in the Buddy Backpack Program each school year. The UWNEMN Board and staff - and school districts - have expressed a need for a summer feeding program to address childhood hunger when the Buddy Backpacks program is unavailable. 

Meet Up and Chow Down was piloted in 2016 in Chisholm; 1,680 meals were served.  Over the summer of 2023, 9,765 Meet Up and Chow Down lunches were served at 12 sites in Biwabik, Chisholm, Cook, Hibbing, Hoyt Lakes, Keewatin, Mt. Iron, Nashwauk, and Virginia. 

What is the impact?

"I have personally experienced a feeling of comfort and safety from United Way having the lunches in the summer where my kids went to socialize when we were new to the community. As a mom who came from a big city, seeing the impact your volunteers made on family and other families made a difference how I view the United Way organization and the impact in our community. I am going to make sure my contributions are set up as soon as possible to support this organization and what they continue to do every day."

- Local parent's feedback about Meet Up and Chow Down

How do I bring Meet Up and Chow Down to my community?

In order to host a Meet Up and Chow Down site, a community needs:

  • A safe public location (with rain option)
  • A USDA-approved kitchen willing/able to make meals following program guidelines four days a week
  • Enough volunteers to staff their community site from 12-1 pm Monday-Thursday June-August

Every site must go through a lengthy state approval process. If you are committed to bringing this program to your community next year, reach out to us now to start the process!

In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

Program information may be made available in languages other than English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication to obtain program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language), should contact the responsible state or local agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

To file a program discrimination complaint, a Complainant should complete a Form AD-3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form which can be obtained online at:, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632-9992, or by writing a letter addressed to USDA.

The letter must contain the complainant’s name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) about the nature and date of an alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD-3027 form or letter must be submitted to USDA by:

(1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; or

(2) fax: (833) 256-1665 or (202) 690-7442; or

(3) email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.