Families with children in need of food assistance this summer can find a list of distribution sites by following the links on the Gleaners Community Food Bank website at www.gcfb.org. You can also text the word “FOOD” in a message to 877877 to receive a list of open meal sites near you.

Families with children in need of food assistance this summer can find a list of distribution sites by following the links on the Gleaners Community Food Bank website at www.gcfb.org. You can also text the word “FOOD” in a message to 877877 to receive a list of open meal sites near you.

Photo provided by Gleaners Community Food Bank


Gleaners summer program adapts to feed despite COVID-19

By: Brian Louwers | C&G Newspapers | Published July 17, 2020

METRO DETROIT — Social distancing requirements necessitating the avoidance of large groups aren’t ideal for summer food outreaches built around the Meet Up and Eat Up concept.

The needs still exist, and in some cases they may be even greater. Organizers say the Gleaners Community Food Bank has adapted to continue providing supplemental nutrition for children away from school — and as a result, away from available breakfast and lunch food program assistance programs — during the summer of the coronavirus.

“That’s the purpose of the summer feeding program, to fill the gap,” said Deb Smith, Summer Food Program manager for Gleaners. “We’re reaching as many children as we can this year. There’s definitely a need, especially in the summer. What happens in the summer? How do these children get fed? The need is there, and we’ll make the gap a little smaller for all of us.”

In response to COVID-19, this year’s program has been adapted to including multiple distribution models designed to better meet the needs of children and special needs adults aged 19-26 in southeast Michigan.

Grocery sites provide a nutritionally balanced selection of fresh milk, fruits and vegetables, healthy protein, and nonperishables — enough for 10 lunches and six breakfasts that the family can prepare in their own home. There are 41 sites in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Livingston counties providing groceries with a drive-thru format.

Meal sites provide balanced nutrition in two formats. Pre-prepared breakfasts and/or lunches are available. Take-home meals let families with children pick up meals once or twice a week through the drive-thru format. Transitional meals are also provided on-site for children engaged in daycare programs or camps, while adhering to the required health and safety protocols. There are 21 meal sites.

Mobile delivery sites offer lunches for families with children five days a week. The meals are delivered at set times to selected at-risk neighborhoods. Parents or siblings are permitted to collect meals at 28 sites for the children they live with.

Smith said only meal sites and grocery sites were offered last year, when about 150,000 meals were served through 65 meal sites and 28 mobile delivery sites.

“You can see where the difference is. You can see because of COVID what’s happening this year,” Smith said. “The grocery model is really helping to fill that gap.”

No hot meals will be offered for summer 2020.

The program launched on July 1 to complement the Gleaners’ distribution programs across its 500-member partner network and will run until Aug. 31.  

Jake Williams, a Gleaners program manager, said steps will be taken to ensure safe distribution.

“I’m a chef by trade, so I put a lot of safety protocols in place,” Williams said. “They can meet up with us so they can get food, and then they can eat, probably not in a cafeteria.”

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, also known as Meet Up and Eat Up, is administered in Michigan by the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Health and Nutritional Services and operated by local program sponsors, including Gleaners.

The public can also support the efforts of Gleaners through donations as part of their Hunger Free Summer Plus campaign, with matching contributions from Citizens Bank and other donors at www.hungerfreesummer.org. Checks can also be sent directly to the Gleaners Community Food Bank, P.O. Box 44050, Detroit, MI 48244-0050. To ensure a donation is matched, simply write “Hunger Free Summer” on the check’s memo line.

“We couldn’t do it without donations and volunteers,” Smith said.

Families with children in need of food assistance this summer can find a list of distribution sites by following the links on the Gleaners Community Food Bank website at www.gcfb.org. You can also text the word “FOOD” in a message to 877877 to receive a list of open meal sites near you.