SUNNY program will serve 5,000 free lunches over summer

Christ the King Lutheran Church in New Brighton is teaming up with its neighborhood to fight hunger in the community.

This is the third year the church is hosting Serving Up Nutrition Now for Youth (SUNNY), which offers free lunches for local children and families in need.

“The program is all about providing a meal for those in need, regardless of who they are or what their religious background is. We don’t want them to go hungry,” the church’s communications coordinator Carrie Gubsch said.

The program starts June 10 and runs through Aug. 23. During that time SUNNY volunteers will provide six bagged lunches a week for children and families and is aimed at families who cannot afford to feed their children three meals a day, but there are no restrictions as to who can participate.

“By feeding people we not only meet daily needs but also share the message that they are loved and cared for, regardless of what they have or don’t have, where they come from, or what life is like for them,” Rev. Hannah Johnson, a pastor at Christ the King said.

SUNNY started in 2010 when then Irondale High School junior Marrina Kaun approached former Senior Pastor Paul L. Larson about starting a program to feed lunch to New Brighton children during summer months.

Kaun is now a freshman at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. and is currently working as a camp counselor at the Shetek Bible Camp in Slayton, Minn., but her mother Regina Kaun said her daughter is still actively involved with SUNNY, as is she.

The Kaun women co-chair the church’s social ministry team, which aims to provide care and assistance to those who are in need.

Regina Kaun said the church received a Thrivent Financial Choice Dollars Grant in 2010, which the church wanted to put towards a food initiative, shortly after SUNNY was born.

“It was Marrina who started it, she saw the need in the community and wanted to do something about it,” Kaun said

Last year the program served more than 2,500 lunches to community members and plans to expand to serve more than 5,000 lunches this year.

Christ the King is partnering with Brooklyn Park United Methodist Church to start another location in Brooklyn Park, which will start giving out free lunches on June 10 and continue to Aug. 23, the same time frame as in New Brighton.

Kaun said they try and focus on healthier foods and place nutritional information inside the bagged lunches. She said they do usually provide a snack, such as pretzels or baked chips.

“We recognize that these are kids, so we want to include something they like. We try and select snacks that are healthier though,” Kaun said.

Lunches are served from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Christ the King Lutheran Church.

Lunch service begins on June 10 and runs through Aug. 23. Participants take two lunches, one for that day and one for the following day.

Christ the King Lutheran Church is located at 1900 7th St. N.W. in New Brighton.

For more information about the SUNNY program, contact Carrie Gubsch at carrie@lifeatctk.org or 651-633-4674.

Gubsch said they have a group of 25 volunteers, but are always happy to have more. The church is also accepting donations to help pay for the cost of food.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached jnielsen@lillienews.com  or 651-748-7824.

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