GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- When the school bells ring and summer vacation begins for students across West Michigan, the end of the year also signals the start of uncertainty for thousands of those children.
In Kent County, more than 30,000 children live below the poverty line, Bridget Clark Whitney told FOX 17.
Clark Whitney is the executive director with the Kids' Food Basket in Grand Rapids. She said it's really a tale of two summers for kids once school ends.
"For so many kids, summer is a time of relaxation and of fun with their friends and family," she said. "But for so many children here in this community... when school is out for summer, for children, comes with it the anxiety and stress of not knowing where their basic needs, like their next meal will be met."
Clark Whitney said to put the need in perspective, the roughly 30,000 children living in the county below the poverty line could fill the Van Andel arena roughly three times over.
"There`s huge need in the summer," she said.
It's a similar story in Kalamazoo County where the number of children under the age of 18 living below the poverty line currently hovers around 12,000. In Muskegon County, it's roughly 13,000, according to the latest 'Kids Count' data from the Michigan League for Public Policy.
That's where organizations like the Kids' Food Basket come in, which is one of several organizations across West Michigan providing children with places to get a meal, no matter the time of year.
Beginning June 15, the Grand Rapids Public Schools' 'Meet Up and Eat Up' campaign will offer free breakfast and lunches to kids 18 and under at several schools across the Grand Rapids area. Those interested can dial 2-1-1 or text FOODMI to 877877 for location information. Meet Up and Eat Up will have breakfast and lunch for children at Alger Middle School, Dickinson Elementary, Gerald R. Ford Middle, Mulick Park Elementary, Martin Luther King Leadership Academy and Umich Sheldon from 8-8:30 a.m. and 11:30-12:30 p.m., respectively. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for a complete list.)
Breakfast and lunch will also be served at Child Discovery Center from 8:45-9:15 a.m. and 12:00-12:30 p.m., respectively. Seidman Center, Paul I Phillips and New Faith Temple will also serve lunch and snacks from 11:30-12:30 p.m. and 3-3:30 p.m., respecetively.
The organization serves students in Grand Rapids, Holland and Muskegon.
"In this country kids aren`t hungry because of a lack of food, children are hungry because of a lack of access to food," Clark Whitney said.
On Monday, the state of Michigan was also awarded a $5.5 million federal grant to provide summer meals to more than 40,000 children across the state, including in the Grand Rapids Public Schools and Kentwood Public Schools.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Michigan Department of Education announced the state was one of only eight selected by the United States Department of Agriculture to receive the funding.
“Meet up and Eat Up” offers free summer meals for children 18 years of age or younger. All sites are open to the public, and there is no registration.
The following summer meal sites will be offering breakfast and hot lunch, Monday through Thursday. Breakfast will be served from 8:00-8:30am and lunch will be served from 12:00-12:30pm. Meal times may vary.
- Alger Middle, 921 Alger St SE
- Buchanan Elementary, 1775 Buchanan Ave SW
- Burton Elementary and Middle, 2133 Buchanan Ave SW
- Cesar E. Chavez Elementary, 1205 Grandville Ave SW
- Coit Creative Arts Academy, 617 Coit Ave NE
- Dickinson Academy, 448 Dickinson St SE
- Gerald R. Ford Academic Center, 851 Madison Ave SE
- Harrison Park, 1440 Davis Ave NW
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Academy, 645 Logan St SE
- Mulick Park Elementary, 1761 Rosewood Ave SE
- Palmer Elementary, 309 Palmer St NE
- Shawmut Hills, 2550 Burritt St NW
- Sibley Elementary, 943 Sibley St NW
- Southwest Community Campus, 801 Oakland Ave SW
- University Prep Academy, 512 S. Division Ave
The following summer meals sites will be offering lunch and a snack, starting on June 15. Lunch will be served Monday-Friday from 12:00-12:30pm. Snack times are to be determined. All dates and times are subject to change.
- Boys and Girls Club Seidman Club, 139 Crofton St SE
- Boys and Girls Club Steil Club, 235 Straight Ave NW
- Boys and Girls Club Paul I. Phillips Club, 726 Madison Ave SE
- Child Discovery Center, 409 Lafayette Ave SE
- New Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, 1701 Kalamazoo Ave SE
- United Methodist Community House, 904 Sheldon Ave SE