Ex-MPS Athletic Director Tucker joining Minneapolis nonprofit

Trent Tucker, the former University of Minnesota basketball star, NBA player and Minneapolis Public Schools athletic director, is joining the staff of a nonprofit focused on providing meals to children in need.

Tucker will join Minneapolis-based Hunger Impact Partners as director of stakeholder engagement within the next week or two, he said Monday. He said he’s excited to be joining an organization that is moving the community in a positive direction.

“Food plays so many critical and wonderful parts in a person’s life, and if you’re able to provide those opportunities for kids, it becomes a game changer,” he said.

Tucker, who grew up in Flint, Michigan, was a basketball star for the Gophers in the late ’70s and early ’80s, leading them to a Big Ten championship in 1982. He subsequently played 11 seasons in the NBA before working as a broadcaster, founding a nonprofit and earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. Tucker then worked as a community outreach and youth development coordinator for the University for several years before the Minneapolis district hired him as athletic director in 2013.

Tucker, who resigned in February, said he had a wonderful time with the district, adding that graduation rates and GPAs among student-athletes improved and that more students started participating in athletics. He said the public schools treated him well and that “at some point, you realize it’s time to move on to do something different.”

Tucker said his resignation did not have to do with the district’s placing North High School athletic director Leo Lewis and Southwest High School athletic director Ryan Lamberty on administrative leave. The district put Lewis on leave in December and Lamberty on leave in February, on the same day Tucker resigned.

Both Lewis and Lamberty remain on leave, a district spokesman said Monday.

Hunger Impact Partners CEO Ellie Lucas said Tucker will lead a campaign to get kids to take advantage of meals provided in after-school enrichment programs. She said he will be doing a series of public service announcements for the effort, known as the Hungry for Wins campaign.

Lucas said Tucker understands school districts and added that he has strong insights as it relates to kids and communities.

“He will be a great advocate for us,” she said.

Hunger Impact Partners focuses on increasing participation in and access to four federal childhood nutrition programs. It looks at data from state agencies to find communities where large numbers of kids qualify for federal meal programs and where access to and participation in those programs is limited. It then supports local schools and other organizations in their efforts to build up or increase participation in those programs.

“The idea is that we’re sort of a catalyst,” Lucas said. “It’s all predicated on what the need is for that particular site or community.”

The organization hopes to provide an additional 30 million meals to Minnesota kids through its efforts, it said in its 2016 annual report.

In addition to working to provide after-school meals, Hunger Impact Partners works with local agencies on school breakfast programs, meal programs for kids ages 0-5 and summer-meal programs. The organization developed a mobile app last year, called Summer Eats Minnesota, that provides families information on when and where they can access no-cost summer meals.

Visit hungerimpactpartners.org to learn more about the organization.