Hazel Park, Madison HeightsJune 21, 2012
Free food program keeps kids fed over summer
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — The Madison, Lamphere and Hazel Park school districts are among those hosting sites for the Summer Food Service Program, facilitated by the Michigan Department of Education with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Children ages 18 and under receive free meals for breakfast and lunch at participating sites. Free meals are also provided to persons up to age 26 who are enrolled in an educational program for the mentally or physically disabled as recognized by a state or local public educational agency. By law, the meals must be served without regard to race, color, nationality, age, sex or disability.
Meals must be consumed on site to ensure they’re helping the people intended. Breakfast consists of one serving of milk, one serving of bread or grain, and one serving of fruits and/or vegetables. Lunch consists of one serving of milk, one serving of meat or meat alternate, one serving of bread or grain, and two servings of fruits and/or vegetables.
Anyone ages 18 or older can buy a meal: $2 for breakfast and $3 for lunch.
“This is a great opportunity for our community,” said Katie McConkie, food services director for the Madison and Lamphere school districts. “We’re feeding our children. We can provide them a free, healthy, balanced meal.”
There are 1,100 sites registered to participate this summer in Michigan. The locations, days and times in Hazel Park and Madison Heights are as follows:
• Hazel Park High, 23400 Hughes: Monday through Friday, now through June 29, closed the week of July 2, and resuming July 9 through Aug. 17: Breakfast from 7-9 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
• Hazel Park Recreation Center, 620 W. Woodward Heights: Monday through Friday, now through Aug. 17, closed the day of July 4: Breakfast from 7:30-9 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
• Lamphere High, 610 W. 13 Mile: Seven days a week, now through Aug. 17, except for July 4: Breakfast from 7:30-9 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
• Hiller Elementary, 400 E. LaSalle: Monday through Thursday, July 10 through Aug. 10: Breakfast from 7:30-9 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
• Halfman Elementary, 25601 Couzens: Seven days a week, now through Aug. 17, except for July 4: Breakfast from 7:30-9 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
• Wilkinson Middle School, 26524 John R: Seven days a week, now through Aug. 17, except for July 4: Breakfast from 7:30-9 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Site eligibility is determined by the surrounding area. If a school has 50 percent or more students who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the school year, then the attendance area around that school qualifies for the summer program.
“It doesn’t matter if the child (in the summer program) is from that area,” said Bryan Van Dorn, school nutrition programs consultant for the MDE. “It could be a cousin, for example, staying out of state, and they’ll still be eligible because that area has been deemed able to participate.”
The program continues to grow each year, Van Dorn said. Sites, sponsors and participation have increased each year since the MDE took over the program as a state agency in 2004, prior to which the program was facilitated by the Midwest Regional Office/Chicago USDA.
“It’s a bit more complex with the way the economy has turned over,” Van Dorn said. “There’s more of a need, and as one district does it, other districts take notice, and sometimes the sponsors increase just by proxy, hearing good things from their neighbors and also wanting to get involved.”
Hunger is a silent menace plaguing the country; many are finding themselves in situations they wouldn’t on their worse day have imagined themselves in 10 years ago. As joblessness in the recession puts people in the tough position of deciding between paying the bills and putting food on the table, families are going hungry, often too proud to turn to others for help.
But there’s nothing shameful in seeking help. The Summer Food Service Program aims to keep kids healthy and strong during the summer break when they might otherwise not get enough nutritious meals.
“This is all about combating hunger issues,” Van Dorn said. “The program is determined to help fill that gap.”
For more information about the Summer Food Service Program or to find a site location near you, call (517) 373-3347, visit http://www.michigan.gov/sfsp, call 211 for the United Way helpline or text FoodMI to 877-877.
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