This summer’s volunteers for the United Way of Northeastern Minnesota (UWNEMN) Meet Up and Chow Down free summer lunch program say they saw first-hand the impact the program has on local children’s lives.
According to responses to the annual program survey, released today, children’s faces “lit up” when the lunches were handed out, and some would come running up to the table to get their lunches.
One volunteer said that some of the children they served lunches to “told me that this was the best meal they have eaten all week.”
“A few of the children that come every time said without Meet Up and Chow Down they didn’t know when their next meal would be,” another wrote.
The program, which provides free lunch to any child age on to 18 regardless of income, served a record 6,625 free meals at nine sites in the communities of Chisholm, Ely, Hibbing, Mt. Iron, Nashwauk, and Virginia. UWNEMN staff organizes the program which is funded largely by the United States Department of Agriculture and Minnesota Department of Education’s Summer Food Service Program, and most lunches are served by local volunteers.
Most volunteers were supplied by local businesses. Community and business partners for the summer of 2019 included: Chisholm Public Library, City of Chisholm, Chisholm Kiwanis, Chisholm Kids Plus, Range Center, Range Transitional Housing, Minnesota Twist Drill, American Bank, Nashwauk Public Library, Hillcrest Assisted Living, Mesabi Family YMCA, IRRR, U of M Extension Services, City of Hibbing, INAC, Essentia Health, Frandsen Bank & Trust, Northern Mining Services, Hibbing Kiwanis, City of Virginia, Rutabaga Project, AEOA, Virginia Housing Authority, Hibbing Housing Authority, Ely Community Resource, and Boundary Waters Care Center.
“This program could not succeed, let alone grow, if it wasn’t for the support of these community partners,” said UWNEMN Community Impact Coordinator Michelle Lampton.
Volunteers said they enjoyed spending time in the communities getting to know the families and children in their neighborhoods. Several noted their time with the Meet Up and Chow Down program made them more aware of challenges families are facing in the region.
“This experience really impacted me personally,” one wrote. “It really opened my eyes to how much support is needed in our area, especially during the summer months. … This program really helps ensure the health and well-being of our youth.”
For full survey results or for more information on Meet Up and Chow Down, click here.