Winter school closures can force kids to go hungry

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KENT COUNTY, Mich. -- With the cold weather in West Michigan also comes school closures. That also means more students who rely on the food they receive at school are left to go without.

United Church Outreach Ministry in Wyoming said for many students in West Michigan, the only food they receive is the what they get from school, so a cancelled school day can mean a day without a meal.

Executive Director Bruce Roller said that the level of poverty in Kent County is alarming.

"100% of the children in the schools around us that we serve are free or reduced lunch," said Roller.

Roller said that last year, UCOM served more than 34,000 people.

When school is cancelled because of snow or extreme cold like we experienced in February, Roller said that for thousands of children, that means they might go hungry.

Many kids do get help from groups like Kids Food Basket.

As the price of junk food continues to decrease and the cost of fresh produce continues to rise, Roller said that it's important that when kids sit down to eat, they are eating the right things.

"Our slogan for 15 years has been, we don't want to fill kids up with potato chips. We want kids to be able to eat food that's healthful," said Roller.

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  • Wayne

    I’m sick of how this “topic” is blown out of proportion. There are so many agencies, churches, groups and just nice people out there that offer assistance to anyone who cannot afford food. NO one will go hungry. Maybe they should try keeping the kids home when not in school and make sure they get fed instead of running all over town. It is not the school system’s responsibility to feed your kids. This is the media just blowing another Non-issue out of proportion.

    • Bruce Roller

      Actually, Wayne, it’s the media responding to people like me–people who work with hunger and poverty needs in our community every day. I’m sorry hearing about these needs disturbs you. Imagine how disturbing it is to have your child go to bed hungry at night, even though you are doing your best to take care of them, even though you are working two minimum wage jobs and still can’t make ends meet. I hope as you hear the stories more and as others do, empathy will replace anger and indifference, and our world will be a community of beloved neighbors and friends.