— Because of safety and liability concerns from Lloyd Management, two locations of the Salvation Army Mobile Outreach Meals summer feeding program had to be moved last minute.
The Homestead/Blue Heron Apartments location in Mankato was moved to the parking lot of the Red Cross across the street, where a meal is being served 11 a.m. to noon weekdays. The Colony Court location in upper North Mankato was changed to the adjacent parking lot of Messiah Lutheran Church. The meal will be served there from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Heather Spann of the Salvation Army said it was vital to find new serving locations close by because the U.S. Department of Agriculture reimburses costs for a portion of the meals. To qualify for the funds, the meals have to be served in eligible communities based on income levels or the number of free and reduced lunch students in schools.
Spann said the Salvation Army also did a great deal of outreach in the schools this year, so the trucks needed to be in a location where the children can still find them. As is, a Salvation Army worker is standing each day in the location where the trucks originally were set to be located to redirect children.
“We just found out last week we were going to have to make these changes,” Spann said.
Julie Hawker, community development and marketing manager for Lloyd Management, said the company is devoted to community outreach and supports the Salvation Army summer feeding program 100 percent. But she said during the past couple of years, the program has attracted numerous unsupervised children to the two apartment communities, and Lloyd Management is concerned about the children’s safety as well as liability.
She likened the situation to having a swimming pool in the backyard without adult supervision, saying it was only a matter of time before a child was hurt. Many of the children who receive meals do not live at the apartments, she said.
“We reach out so much. We’ve done the Refugee Service Program. We’re really plugged into the (community),” Hawker said about the apartments, which are home to a number of refugees. “It’s not that we don’t want the kids around. ... We love families. That’s our business is working with families.”
Hawker said unsupervised children have gone to the bathroom in the bushes and in the hallways. There was also an incident where children fingerpainted on the walls in the hallways of a building. The past couple of years, Hawker said, the problem has worsened.
“Honestly, it was a big surprise,” Spann said. “Clearly, they own those properties. They get to make the decisions about that stuff. ... I should have had the foresight to go and talk to them ahead of time instead of going on the assumption it would be like years past.”
Spann said she does understand that many children receiving the free lunches come to the truck unsupervised.
“It is tricky,” she said. “We are feeding a lot of kids whose parents are at work all day, and they’re not supervised and not getting lunch.”
Spann said the hardest part of the location changes was the short notice.
“Fortunately, Mankato is overwhelmingly a community that’s concerned about our neighbors,” Spann said. “Fortunately, it wasn’t difficult to find alternative spots.”
Hawker wasn’t sure whether the adjacent locations for the trucks will solve the issues.
“We’ll have to see how that works,” she said. “Once again, it’s really driving it back to supervision.”
The program began Monday and ends Aug. 30. Meals are served to anyone 18 and younger on weekdays.
Other locations and meal times are: Lincoln Community Center, 10:15-10:45 a.m.; Eastport Apartments, 11 a.m. to noon; and Lime Valley Mobile Home Park, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
A free meal also is served every day, including weekends, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army. The meal is available to everyone of any age.