ST. PAUL, Minn., June 9 /PRNewswire/ -- With support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and children from St. Paul's Ames Elementary School, the Minnesota Vikings today officially launched the 2010 Vikings Children's Fund Summer Lunch Program, Presented by Target, which will help secure up to 500,000 additional meals for hungry Minnesota children this summer. The Vikings and Target have pledged $300,000 to the effort, which, through an awareness campaign created by Second Harvest Heartland and lauded as a national model by the USDA, will raise visibility of the USDA's Summer Food Service Program.
"It's imperative that as a community we come together to give our children the best future possible, and, often, that means giving them what they need today," said Steve LaCroix, vice president of Sales and Marketing, chief marketing officer with the Minnesota Vikings. "The Vikings Children's Fund is honored to again help secure healthy, nutritious meals for hungry children in Minnesota through the Vikings Children's Fund Summer Lunch Program and help these children achieve the future they deserve." LaCroix added that the Vikings Children's Fund Summer Lunch Program provided more than 200,000 additional meals to Minnesota children last summer.
"Target has long been involved in the fight to end hunger both locally and nationally," said Laysha Ward, president, Community Relations with Target. "We are pleased to join with the Minnesota Vikings, Second Harvest Heartland and all of Minnesota's Feeding America food banks in an effort to positively impact child hunger in Minnesota."
According to the Minnesota Department of Education, which administers both the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program, 293,000 Minnesota school children receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year, but fewer than 60,000 children receive them during the summer months. Contributing factors to low participation rates in the Summer Food Service program in Minnesota are a lack of sites participating in the program and serving meals as well as a lack of awareness about the program and existing meal sites.
The Vikings Children's Fund Summer Lunch Program, Presented by Target, has already secured more than 40 additional Summer Food Service Program meal sites, bringing the total number of summer meal sites in Minnesota to more than 450.
The program will drive more hungry children to those sites through an aggressive and innovative visibility campaign created by Second Harvest Heartland, which was also unveiled at today's event. The visibility campaign includes 21 informational billboards; interactive tools, including an online meal site location finder available on www.2harvest.org and a text-to-eat option that allows individuals to send a text message to 612.516.FOOD to obtain information on their nearest meal site; a neighborhood canvassing effort, through which volunteers will go door-to-door distributing literature on the Summer Food Service Program and nearby meal sites; and a partnership with area libraries to provide patrons with information on nearby meal sites.
"What Second Harvest Heartland has done this past year with the Vikings for the Summer Food Service Program is considered a national model by our agency," said Alan Shannon, Public Affairs director, USDA Food and Nutrition Service – Midwest Region. "We're excited about the innovativeness of this year's program using text and online mapping technology for the community to find the program in their neighborhood as well as the expanded awareness of the program with billboards and neighborhood canvassing."
"All of us at Second Harvest Heartland work hard every day to bring innovation, ingenuity and creativity to the fight to end hunger," said Rob Zeaske, executive director of Second Harvest Heartland. "We are proud of our efforts and pleased that the USDA has recognized our work with the Minnesota Vikings. It is our sincere hope that our innovation combined with the generosity of the Vikings and Target will get more food to more hungry kids this summer."
For more information on the Vikings Children's Fund Summer Lunch Program, Presented by Target, visit www.2harvest.org/summermeals.
About the Vikings Children's Fund
The Vikings Children's Fund is a means for Minnesota Vikings players, coaches, staff and their families to focus their community support. The organization's mission is to rally the resources of the Vikings, the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics, the corporate community, and fans in an effort to support the many needs of children's charities throughout the Upper Midwest. Since its inception, the Vikings Children's Fund has distributed nearly $8 million in grants. To learn more, visit www.vikings.com.
About Target Corporation
Minneapolis-based Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT) serves guests at more than 1,675 stores nationwide and at Target.com. Target is committed to providing a fun and convenient shopping experience with access to unique and highly differentiated products at affordable prices. Since 1946, the corporation has given 5 percent of its income through community grants and programs like Take Charge of Education. Today, that giving equals more than $3 million a week. To learn more, visit www.target.com.
About Second Harvest Heartland
Second Harvest Heartland is the Upper Midwest's largest hunger-relief organization, with a mission of ending hunger through community partnerships. 41 million pounds of grocery products were distributed last year to hungry seniors, families and children through more than 1,000 non-profit member agencies and programs, including food shelves, soup kitchens, shelters, senior centers, faith-based organizations, and children's after-school programs serving 59 counties in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. For each $1 donated, Second Harvest Heartland can distribute more than $9 worth of grocery products for those in need. For further information, visit www.2harvest.org or call 651.484.5117.
SOURCE Second Harvest Heartland