Nonprofits step in to feed kids during COVID-19 school closures

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While it was a move to stem the spread of coronavirus, one negative fallout from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s decision to close down every school in the state meant that many kids would go without school meal programs.

But some local nonprofits are stepping up to make sure kids don’t go hungry.

Of the 727,000 school-age children eligible for free or reduced lunch programs in Michigan, some 75,000 in the four counties (Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan) served by Kids Food Basket receive school based meals.

When Whitmer shut the schools down Thursday night, KFB went into emergency mode.

“The speed and extent to how we can serve our West Michigan community depends on the resources from our West Michigan community,” Bridget Clark Whitney, president and CEO of KFB, said.

Those resources include cash to buy bulk food and volunteers to help distribute it. You can donate to KFB online or by texting 56651.

Normally, getting volunteers would be the easier than getting donations, but not with so many concerns about coronavirus.

“We understand that this is a high-risk situation, but there are certain individuals that are higher risk and lower risk. If you are a lower risk individual, if you are healthy and well, we will promise you we are taking proper precautions to keep our space and our food healthy and well, as well,” KFB Chief Operating Officer Afton DeVos said. “So you can count on that from us. And if you’re able to serve, we’re asking people to show up and do that if you are a low-risk individual.”

Kids Food Basket is not alone in its efforts and needs.

Hand2Hand Ministries partners with local churches and schools to provide 7,800 kids enrolled in free and reduced lunch programs in over 200 districts throughout West Michigan with weekend meals. It, too, is expanding its efforts and stretching its finances.

“We may be purchasing things like pancake mixes, pasta,” Hand2Hand Executive Director Cheri Honderd said. “Things that I think are gone on the shelves already at our local grocery stores.”

Both organizations share one vital goal:

“Anytime children are fed, it is a win,” Honderd said.

While Hand2Hand is using its established network of churches to distribute food, Kids Food Basket is still working to determine where emergency distributions centers will be set up.

The community stepped up, too. Mitten Brewing Co. was handing out free pizza at Harrison Park Elementary in Grand Rapids mid-day Friday.

Kalamazoo Public Schools is launching a food program at 20 schools and four community sites from March 16 through April 3. Three times a week, kids can pick up food to take home. They’ll get enough to last the days meals aren’t being distributed.

Greenville Public Schools says it will have boxed lunches available for drive-up pickup at Cedar Crest and Lincoln Heights elementaries between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. starting Tuesday. The program will be in effect on weekdays through the closure period.

The Green Harp restaurant in Greenville posted on Facebook that parents who needed help could call to get free breakfast or lunch for their kids.

Wayland Union Schools will have bagged breakfast and lunch available Monday, Wednesday and Friday through April 3. You can pick them up from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the middle school, Dorr Elementary, Windsor Woods and Hunter’s Glen.

Michigan has recorded 25 cases of coronavirus. Children are not at high risk of contracting serious cases. The elderly and those with preexisting problems are most likely to develop complications.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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