Local chefs provide meals to kids while schools are closed, MPS goes to weekly pickups

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Volunteers are hard at work making sure kids have healthy food to eat while Minnesota schools stay closed. According to state officials, more than 1.2 million meals have been served to students since March 18.

Local chefs are partnering with the St. Paul Public School district, providing meals at locations throughout the city.

“The COVID-19 epidemic that’s going on is really hard on people and we thought doing this would give back,” said Gary Sherwood, a chef at Just/Us. “We put our heart and soul into everything we’re doing here.”

The Fare Well Food Truck parked outside of Central High School on Tuesday and tables of meals were set up.

The team of St. Paul chefs handed out more than 650 fresh meals at the school. They’ll be at American Indian Magnet School on Thursday and Chelsea Heights Elementary School on Friday. Both distributions start at 11 a.m.

On Monday, they gave away 1,000 meals at Jackson Elementary School and Johnson Senior High School. Any leftovers were brought to homeless shelters.

Sherwood said it’s helping them get through the crisis as well. Restaurants are closed to dining statewide.

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“Feeding people makes me happy, keeps me healthy, keeps others healthy as well,” said Sherwood.

The team starts preparing and packaging the meals at 7 a.m. every day at Shish on Grand Ave.

“Whatever we’re giving away today was made today,” said Samuel Crawford, the manager at Shish.

He said they are using ingredients that would otherwise go to waste. Many restaurants purchased food without knowing the pandemic would close part of their businesses.

“Some food has to be used at a certain time and we wanted to find a way to combine that with some of the abilities that our chefs have,” Crawford said. “We have the ability to make something incredible for people to take home and they can really appreciate. This is a thin time for a lot of people.”

Crawford hopes they’ll be an inspiration to other businesses.

While they’re partnering with SPPS, the chefs told us they’re welcoming anyone who needs a warm meal.

“This is for absolutely everyone in the community that’s in need, at any time, in any kind,” said Crawford.

SPPS has its own food truck providing additional meals, click here for information. The district has served more than 227,000 meals since March 18.

The Minneapolis Public School district has more than doubled its food distribution sites from 20 to about 50. This week, the district started transitioning from daily to weekly meal pickups.

Each student will be able to pick up a box of 10 meals, including five lunches and five breakfasts.

“It’s easier for families, it’s more efficient for us as well and then there’s not as many people to come out every single day, less contact points,” said Rebecca Polson, a culinary supervisor with MPS. “We’re thinking of everyone’s health and safety.”

The meals will be available at up to 10 different locations daily, Monday through Friday. The locations will vary by day. Click here for a list.

Families can also find free meals in their neighborhood by using the Free Meals for Kids app. It was created by Hunger Impact Partners and launched last week. The app uses GPS technology to show pickup locations nearby. It includes sites throughout the state.

The app is free to download on Apple or Android devices.