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AUSTIN EDITION Salvation Army starts summer meals program

Meals offered to help low-income families

By Roxana Orellana

rorellana@postbulletin.com

With the school year done, the Salvation Army has begun its summer-meals program.

From June to August, the program serves meals to families and their children.

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"The purpose is to compensate parents who are low income and have children," said Val Maloney, assistant at the Salvation Army.

When children are in school, they are able to have a free or reduced-price lunch, but when school is out, they often don't have anything, she said.

Maloney referred to the results of a recent study from the Children Defense Fund Minnesota. The study showed Mower County has an above-average percentage of children living in poverty, using food stamps, seeking help to pay for school lunches, being born to teenage mothers and being born at low birth weights.

According to the study, 12 percent of children living in Mower County in 2001 lived in poverty. The state average was 10 percent.

"People try to pay their bills and use what's left for food," Maloney said.

Meals are available at the Salvation Army from 11:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. The program started about eight years ago. Part of the funding comes from the Hormel Foundation. Meals are prepared to be balanced and appealing to children, Maloney said.

Statistics from Census 2000 show there are 9,690 children younger than 18 living in Mower County.

"We are trying to encourage all families with children to come as a group, to be together and visit while they eat," Maloney said.

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The Salvation Army also has evening community meals from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Heidi Garcia, who's in charge of the cooking, said she has had more than 60 people attend.

"It's been successful so far," she said.

By adding some Hispanic flavor to the community meals, the Salvation Army hopes to reach some of Austin's Hispanic community, she said.

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