Columbia Heights Recreation summer food program expands

Murzyn Hall
May 23, 2016

Thanks to a new partnership with a nonprofit meal program, Columbia Heights Recreation will provide free, nutritious meals this summer to youth participants.

For the last few years, volunteers with Community United Methodist Church in Columbia Heights have purchased, prepared and served summer lunches on Fridays to kids enrolled in the city’s recreation programs.

The program has taken place for approximately seven years, and up to 60 people – including parks and recreation workers – were served at a time.

“The kids have been great and let us know their favorite foods, said Lennis Bentrud with Community United Methodist.

Earlier this spring, Recreation Program Coordinator Liz Bray had a meeting at the church and was introduced to Loaves & Fishes, a nonprofit established in 1982 that works to end hunger in Minnesota.

“I feel so blessed to have this happen to us,” Bray said. “It’s a great thing.”

Loaves & Fishes Executive Director Cathy Maes said Columbia Heights was chosen because the area has a high number of students who receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch, and the program seeks to find areas where children will be in summer programs.

“This is a perfect location,” she said.

Throughout the week, youth will receive hot, nutritious meals that are consistent with USDA guidelines. The meals will include a protein, fruit, vegetable, grain and milk.

Community United Methodist Church is seeking volunteers to help serve the meals at Murzyn Hall under the guidance of an intern from Loaves & Fishes. Volunteers will need to have a background check completed by the city of Columbia Heights.

When kids go on day trips on Wednesdays, they will receive a fresh bag lunch to take with them. Also, because many times other events are happening at Murzyn Hall on Fridays and the kitchen is not available, the Loaves & Fishes food truck will provide kids with lunch.

“This new partnership is exciting,” Bentrud said.

Maes said she hopes the expanded program results in more children eating healthy food and signing up for the city’s programming.

For more information, call Liz Bray at 763-706-3733.

Contact Kassie Petermann at