FLINT — For many students and families, the end of the school year also means the end of access to low-cost or free meals through schools’ free and reduced lunch programs.
The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan’s Summer Feeding Program exists to fill that gap. The Summer Feeding Program provides free meals to kids at sites in Genesee, Gladwin, Lapeer, and Saginaw counties, ensuring that kids can find healthy meals near their homes all summer long when school is not in session.
“There are more than 50,000 kids in the 22 counties we serve who struggle with hunger,” said Kara Ross, President and CEO of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. “During the summer, when school is out, we often think about family vacations or planning fun activities for kids. But the reality is much different for many families in our communities, who have the added stress of having to figure out how to replace free or reducedcost meals their children receive during the school year.”
The Summer Feeding Program, done in partnership with the USDA and the Michigan Department of Education, will provide more than 81,000 meals at more than 60 sites in partnership with a network of local agencies, churches, and community organizations.
Additionally, 14 of these sites are mobile — meaning a Food Bank truck delivers meals directly to apartment complexes, schoolyards, and churches. Locations are strategically determined based on regions with higher populations of children in free and reduced lunch programs. AmeriCorps members also provide service to the Food Bank, helping oversee the Summer Feeding Program sites.
The Food Bank will also provide more than 11,000 weekend Nutrition Bags at Summer Feeding Program sites, giving kids food to take home during the weekend.
“The goal is simple — to make getting a healthy meal as easy as possible for hungry children,” Ross said.
Studies by the National Education Association note that hunger, missing meals, and lack of access to nutritional foods dramatically impact student performance and achievement. Additionally, in Flint, nutrient-rich foods are vital to managing the effects of lead for children who were exposed to lead-tainted water during the Flint Water Crisis. The Food Bank’s Summer Feeding Program is designed to provide access to proper nutrition.
“Meals are prepared in our kitchen using fresh, high-quality ingredients,” Ross said. “They meet all USDA nutrition requirements, plus include an extra serving of fruit and grain. They also include lead-mitigating nutrients as part of our comprehensive response to the community’s recovery from the Flint Water Crisis.” — G.G.