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 A sign promotes Utica Community Schools’ Meet Up and Eat Up program in front of Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights.

A sign promotes Utica Community Schools’ Meet Up and Eat Up program in front of Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Sterling Heights schools still serve meals while class is canceled

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published March 20, 2020


STERLING HEIGHTS — Schools may be closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, but stomachs need to be filled — especially those belonging to students who struggle with food insecurity.  

As a result, the Utica Community Schools district has arranged its Meet Up and Eat Up program in the meantime to prepare free breakfast and lunch to anyone up to age 18.

According to UCS, the meals to go are available at the main entrance of Burr, Dresden, Harvey, Plumbrook, Roberts, Schwarzkoff, West Utica and Wiley elementary schools. They’re also available in the back of Jeannette Junior High School and Eisenhower and Stevenson high schools. Food trucks will also deliver meals at the Rudgate Manor Club House, Sterling Estates, and Autumn Woods communities.

At press time, UCS said the March 23-April 3 meal pickup schedule serves students noon-1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

School officials said on Facebook that UCS served 5,648 meals during the program’s first day of operation since schools closed for the coronavirus.

UCS Superintendent Christine Johns praised the food service program and said it was able to adapt and come together in three days. She added that the arrangement’s plans already existed “for some time”; they just needed activation in an emergency.

Johns said any individual 18 or younger who said they were in need got a meal without any questions asked.  

“If people need a meal, we’re going to take care of that,” she said.

The district explained that the meals may be served to any child, and they don’t need to show ID — even students who attend school outside the district or who don’t normally qualify for affordable lunch programs are welcome. In addition, the school district said, people as old as 26 and who are enrolled in a government-recognized education program for people with physical or mental disabilities may also qualify.

The program asks families of kids to walk or drive up to the distribution site, take the meal and consume it at home.

Mandy Sosnowski, UCS’s director of food and nutrition services, said the program serves, among other foods, popcorn chicken, cereal, juice, fruit, milk, hummus and Wowbutter-and-jelly sandwiches. Wowbutter is a nut-free, soy-based spread that is safe for many kids who normally can’t eat peanut butter, she explained.

Sosnowski is very appreciative of staff and praised the program’s rollout, adding that the staff is happy to help and know “they’re making a huge difference in the lives of the kids.”

“Everyone stepped up,” she said. “We worked diligently, and we made it happen.”

In related school news in the wake of the coronavirus, Johns added that UCS does have a plan for online learning, and students will receive information from their teachers shortly via a learning management system. She added that the district was getting principals and teachers ready for the transition.

“We are continuing to communicate with our families through electronic means,” she said. “We are planning for the immediate, the mid-term and the long-term.

“We know that we will need to work together on additional issues that will require the understanding and patience of all of us. … This is an amazing school community that remains committed to serving our students and our families.”

UCS parents whose phone numbers are on file with the district may get UCS text alerts by texting “Y” to the code 67587.

Find out more about UCS and its programs by visiting