In Washtenaw County, more than 5,300 children are food-insecure, meaning they do not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food (Map the Meal Gap 2020, Feeding America). When school is out for the summer, these students and their families lose access to an important source of food – free and reduced price school breakfast and/or lunch.
In an effort to bridge the meal gap for children during the summer months, Food Gatherers is sponsoring 22 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites for children in Washtenaw County from June 29th through August 28th. The 2020 SFSP is offered in partnership with the Michigan Department of Education and is funded by Toyota.
“Food Gatherers is grateful for Toyota’s investment in the summer food program,” says Helen Starman, Food Gatherers Chief Development Officer. “With their generous support we will be able to supplement the meals with groceries and fresh produce boxes, as well expand our mobile meal program reaching several remote communities. In addition to summer food, they have also supported critical food distribution during the pandemic.”
Chronic hunger has an especially detrimental impact on children who are still growing and developing. Government nutrition-based programs, such as the SFSP, can play an important role in promoting lifelong healthy eating. The SFSP is carefully designed to fill the nutrition gap during summer months by providing children with free nutritious meals.
“For many people, summer is a time of fun and relaxation, but for others it is a time of panic. Many families are unsure of how they will pay for food for their children,” says LeRonica Roberts, Food Gatherers Community Food Programs Coordinator. “This year, many more families are experiencing reduced or lost income as a result of the pandemic. The SFSP makes it easy for families to safely pick up and take home meals so that parents can focus on other important things and not worry where their children’s next meal will come from.”
Free meals are available to children 18 years of age and under or persons up to 26 years of age who are enrolled in an educational program that is recognized by a state or local public educational agency. The meals will be provided without regard to race, color, national origin, age, sex or disability, and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service.
This summer, in response to public health guidelines, meal sites are offering non-congregate, to-go meals to children. Each week, sites will distribute bundles of free, to-go meals (breakfast and lunch) to provide 14 meals/week for each child. Parents/guardians may pick up food, kids do not need to be present.
The locations of free meal sites are posted on Food Gatherers’ website.
About Food Gatherers
Food Gatherers’ mission is to alleviate hunger in Washtenaw County. As the food bank and food rescue program for the county, we distribute more than 6.6 million pounds of food to 170 non-profit programs serving low-income adults, seniors, and children every year. For a list of our partner programs, or to learn how you can become involved in the fight against hunger locally, please visit www.foodgatherers.org or call (734) 761-2796.