Cambridge offers free summer lunch program

Families enjoy free hot dogs, chips and watermelon at the kick-off meal for Cambridge’s Summer Food Service Program June 11 at Cambridge Town Square Apartments. 

School’s out. While many people associate summer vacation with a time when kids are missing out on an education, there is now an increase in another vital thing some kids are missing out on – a good, nutritional lunch.

With that in mind, the Cambridge Senior Activity Center (SAC’s) and the Friendship Cafe, have started a free lunch program for kids through the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to a USDA “Summer Food Service Program” flier, “Childhood hunger is a persistent problem in many parts of rural America. This program is an innovative way to implement (the USDA’s) vision to ‘do right and feed everyone.’”

Cambridge’s inaugural venture into the program is headed by former Cambridge-Isanti teacher and CIHS assistant principal Audrey Clough.

According to Clough, free lunches will be offered to any kids 18 years old or younger Tuesdays through Thursdays, from 11 a.m. until about 11:30 a.m. at the Cambridge Town Square Apartments, located at 345 11th Avenue SE, from now until Aug. 30. Clough said that adults are welcome to attend; however, they ask for a small, voluntary donation.

“We are funded (through the USDA) to do ages one through 18, but we want parents to join in,” Clough said.

Clough said that because the meals are funded by the USDA, there are some very specific guidelines, both in location where the free lunch is offered and in the nutritional value of the meals. The Town Square Apartments were one of a select few locations that fit the criteria for lower-income housing in Cambridge.

Clough said the meals must be comprised of at least one cup of milk, 3/4 cup fruit or vegetable, one slice of whole-grain bread or one serving of cornbread, biscuit, roll or muffin, or a 1/2 cup hot cereal, pasta, noodles or grains, and one meat or meat alternative, which could include lean mean, poultry or fish or alternate protein product or cheese, or one large egg, or “cooked dry beans or peas or peanut or other nut or seed butter or nuts and/or seeds or yogurts.”

“For June, we are going to offer bag lunches until we get a better idea of how many people will be showing up,” Clough said. “Eventually, we will have one hot meal of the three per week.”

Clough said there is no sign-up to take part; however, they would appreciate people mentioning if they were planning on attending the next day in order to get a general idea of how many meals need to be prepared.

All of the meals will be prepared at the Friendship Cafe and transported to the apartment complex. When the weather cooperates, the meals can be eaten outside, but food can’t be taken home. Additionally, music, games and guest speakers will be included.

Clough said that Cambridge Family Pathways has agreed to store any perishable food in one of their refrigerators, and also to donate some of their excess perishable foods, such as watermelons or other fresh fruits or vegetables. To reciprocate, any leftover food from the lunches will be donated back to Family Pathways’ food shelves.

Anyone who has questions about this service can call SAC’s at 763-689-6555 or email sacs@midconetwork.com.

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