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'Meet Up and Eat Up' programs feed kids; families thankful

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BUCHANAN, Mich. -- School is out for the summer so the means no class, no homework, and for some students no breakfast or lunch.

To ensure that children continue to eat nutritious meals during summer break, many schools, community centers, and churches in southwest Michigan are opening their doors for the first time this week and serving free meals to kids in the area.

The Summer Food Service Program is a federally funded, state administered program that ensure children continue to receive nutritious meals during summer break. In Michigan, the SFSP is also known as, “Meet Up and Eat Up.”

“They can come and get lunch in a secure location,” said Buchanan Community Schools Food Service Director Suzette Hendershott.

Hendershott runs the ‘Meet Up and Eat Up’ program in Buchanan. Monday through Friday, any child aged one to 18 years old can receive a free lunch and or snack at the district’s high school.

“It’s one program that’s available no matter what your income is and they have to offer a wide variety of components, meal components and they’re nutritionally well balanced,” said Hendershott. “It’s also an opportunity to socialize the kids… The parents get the chance to talk to each other too.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, summer meal programs provided more than 1.5 million meals and snacks to kids across the country in 2018.

Summer meal program sites may offer all three meals and snacks, but it varies from site to site. A serving of milk, fruits and veggies, and whole grain breads must make up the meal.

Hendershott says Buchanan provides more than 100 lunches and up to 40 snacks to children each day.

“Families do experience increased food costs in the summer months when the kids aren’t in school, so it does help them out with that budget,” said Hendershott. “It gives them access to maybe produce that they wouldn’t normally purchase at home.”

“They had salad, yogurt, they had cheese sticks, and I mean whole apples if you wanted,” said Jenette Wetzel.

Wetzel brought her four children to Buchanan’s program for the first time on Tuesday. She believes programs like this make a difference for families.

“When they’re in school, breakfast is provided, lunch is provided and all they do is decide what’s for dinner, so it’s cost,” said Wetzel. “I mean it is hard, we’ve all been there, so I understand completely. I mean if I can not pay for one meal, it saves me in the long run where I can do other things with my kids and I can save the money and use it to pay for bills.”

To find a ‘Meet Up and Eat Up’ program in Michigan, click here.

For information on summer meal programs in Indiana, click here.


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