LITTLE FALLS — Sprout has received a $103,244.76 competitive grant from the Minnesota Department of Education.

The department received funding from the coronavirus relief bill for nonprofits, educational institutions, tribal and local governmental units to provide prepared meals to Minnesota children and adults who are experiencing food insecurity because of COVID-19.

Sprout partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of the Leech Lake Area and Executive Chef Matt Annand and team from b*merri, gastro pub, at The Woods near Merrifield, to provide 300 meals to Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe children and adults, and 140 meals to Sprout's food box recipients each week through December.

Participants include homebound veteran's, food insecure individuals and those who are health compromised and homebound due to COVID-19.

“It is a joy for us to prepare great local food and an absolute privilege to serve those in need,” Annand stated in a news release..

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Priority of meal and menu selection will have a high focus on locally produced foods from Sprout's grower base of over 100 small family farms, and a high focus on culturally specific indigenous foods in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Leech Lake Area and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Department of Resource Management.

"This grant is about providing food access for kids and families,to provide that for kids, give parents time to help with homework and for families to spend time together,” said Samara Lohnes, Boys and Girls Club resource development director in the release.

The objectives of this program are to increase meal access for people experiencing food insecurity as a result of COVID-19, increase the number of meals served to children and adults in targeted areas and to provide additional access to a variety of nutritious and culturally-specific foods.

Sprout partnered with Greater Minneapolis Community Connections to engage food relief agencies in Region Five during the month of July, in part funded by the Initiative Foundation, with a goal of understanding the impact of COVID-19 to food shelves/food relief agencies. Connections were made to the Boys and Girls Club of Leech Lake Area, who had been adversely affected by COVID-19. The Boys and Girls Club of Leech Lake Area shifted its services to childcare to aid Leech Lake Band members, deemed essential workers, during a transition of distance learning and low access to child care. According to Lohnes, all of the children ages 5-12 qualify for free lunch through the school district. The Boys and Girls Club of Leech Lake Area estimates that 100 adults and 200 children will be supported by this program. Meals are delivered to Walker, Cass Lake, Deer River and Onigum Boys and Girls Club each week.

Sprout's food box assistance programs are funded, in part, by Innovation Funding through Sourcewell and the Northwest Area Foundation. Sprout has shifted its Mobile Market to deliver meals to the doorstep of many of these recipients.

It is estimated that 7,140 nutritionally balanced meals, prepared with local and culturally specific foods, will be served through the term of this grant.

According to Arlene Jones, executive director of Sprout, "We are humbled by the opportunity to provide economic relief to our residents through food. This will not only continue to economically support our small family farms but will provide nutritional benefit to those who are in high need and may be at high risk of COVID-19. This endeavor not only continues to support Sprout's mission, but also provides large scale community impact and support during these unprecedented times."