Meet Up and Eat Up helps feed hungry kids this summer

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 16, 2019

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ROCHESTER HILLS — Children and youth can eat for free this summer thanks to the Michigan Department of Education’s Summer Food Service Program, administered locally by Avondale Schools.

As part of the federally funded program, less formally known as Meet Up and Eat Up, the program provides free nutritious meals to children up to age 18 living in low-income areas, where 50% or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.

After school lunchrooms close for summer break, officials say the program helps prevent more than 500,000 Michigan children from going hungry each year. Last year, it served more than 3.4 million meals across the state.

“Many families across Michigan struggle with food security, and there is no reason that children should go hungry when programs like this are available,” interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles said in a statement.

State officials say filling the summer hunger gap is vitally important because it can reduce summer learning loss, also known as the summer slide, for children.

“Childhood hunger exists in almost every Michigan community and the need for healthy meals continues during summer break,” Alles said in a statement. “The Summer Food Service Program helps provide children with nourishment to make summer fun and foster continued learning.”

Meet Up and Eat Up operates in nearly 1,850 schools, public housing centers, playgrounds, parks and faith-based facilities statewide.

Locally, the Avondale School District kicked off the free service June 17 at Avondale Middle School, 1445 W. Auburn Road in Rochester Hills, and at Auburn Elementary School, 2900 Waukegan St. in Auburn Hills.

The two schools offer breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The program runs through July 31 at Avondale Middle School and through Aug. 23 at Auburn Elementary School.

Meet Up and Eat Up meals are free to children 18 and younger who come to a site — no matter what school district they go to or what their family’s income is. People don’t have to pre-register and can just show up each day for two free meals.

“Anyone can qualify, that’s the great part, as long as they are under the age of 18,” said Evan Manning, director of dining services for the Avondale School District.

Thus far, Manning said this year’s Summer Food Service Program has been very well-received.

“At Auburn Elementary School, we have been doing about 160 meals a day — including breakfast and lunch,” Manning said. “We haven’t seen as much participation as we would like at Avondale Middle School, which makes it harder for us to do it in the following years. We would like there to be a lot more kids.”

The meals, according to Manning, offer a wide variety of components and are designed to be nutritionally well-balanced.

“One of our favorites that the kids love is our chicken bowl — which is mashed potatoes, corn and chicken. We also do burgers and pizza, and things like that,” Manning said. “It’s just something that we do as a school district to help out the community and bring meals to students that might not get them otherwise.”

To find the nearest Meet Up and Eat Up site, use the MDE’s locator map at www.michigan.gov/sfsp, or text “food” to 877-877, enter your city and state or ZIP code, and the address is sent to your phone. Eligible participants may go to any site and no identification is required.

The Summer Food Service Program is administered by the MDE through funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For more information on the Meet Up and Eat Up program, call (248) 537-6290.

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