The Scott County Library is handing out more free meal bags to families with students in distance learning, extending a service it provided over the winter break.

The Shakopee, Savage and Prior Lake libraries are helping to distribute the bags. Bags will also be available through the library’s “Readmobile,” a vehicle visiting multiple locations around the community with books, snacks and activities for children.

Scott County Library is partnering with Every Meal, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce “food gaps” and food insecurity for over 300,000 Minnesota children and their families.

Each meal bag consists of four to five pounds of nonperishable fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins.


Scott County Library began working with Every Meal in the fall. Rob Williams, Every Meal president and founder, said the organization chooses locations in communities that are trusted, safe public places — leading them to Scott County Library.

“The libraries are a great place because they’re warm, safe and typically open to similar goals of serving kids and families,” Williams said.

Every Meal provided roughly 250 meals for the Scott County Library to distribute around winter break from Nov. 19-Jan. 3.

During library hours, people could visit the libraries and simply pick up a free bag without meeting any requirements or providing contact information.

Lisa Pollard, Scott County Library’s learning and outreach manager, said that having no requirements was important. “We know if schools are closed, there will be families and possibly just kids who will be coming to the library,” she said. “So it’s great to have those meal bags here where people can grab them without there being a stigma to taking a bag.”

When school districts in Scott County started moving to temporary distance learning last week, Scott County Library reached back out to Every Meal about extending its partnership. Another 200 additional meal bags or so will now be distributed to the three aforementioned libraries beginning Jan. 18.


Williams said each meal bag is worth about five dollars. Every Meal purchases its food from vendors around the country, spending around $2.5 million on food every year.

The content in the food bags must be nutritious, delicious and relevant. Williams said Every Meal addresses these categories by having a registered dietician on staff who tracks nutritional components for the bags and holds taste tests to ensure kids and their families will enjoy the food.

Every Meal also creates five types of bags spanning multiple cultures and diverse menus. Some of the meal bags are tailored to East African, Latino and Southeast Asian dietary preferences and dishes. Other bags also contain ready-to-eat food requiring little to no preparation.

Every Meal assembles the bags and then sends them out, often to locations like libraries, community centers, fire stations and police stations.

Scott County Library was to receive its 200 bags on Jan. 18 and planned to distribute them to the library branches the same day.

Pollard said the library system spent around $1,200 in donated funds for the 200 bags. She anticipates that the libraries will have enough bags for the next two weeks.

Like the winter program, people can show up during open library hours and pick up a free bag with no questions asked. Specific library hours can be found on the Scott County Library website.

Williams said he’s happy Every Meal and the Scott County Library can help to provide food to kids and their families. “There’s a lot of instability these kids and families are facing,” he said. “One thing that ought to be a constant is food access and adequate nutrition, and we’re focused on providing that stability.”