GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Feeding America of West Michigan has partnered with county libraries this summer to bring free, healthy lunches to kids 18 years old and younger. Additionally, those up to the age of 26 with mental or physical handicaps may also qualify for this library lunch program.

“School meals are no longer happening,” Juliana Ludema with Feeding America West Michigan said. “So a lot of parents need that little extra help providing lunch for their kids.”

In Kent County, 15 Kent District Library (KDL) branches will offer lunch pickups to families Monday through Friday through Aug. 12. The ‘Gather to Grow’ program’s participating days and hours will vary from branch to branch. Several libraries in Allegan, Ionia, Muskegon and Newaygo counties have also partnered with Feeding American West Michigan.

“We budget really well, but just having a couple of meals a week covered is really helpful,” Calina Ridgell, a mom of three young boys, said as she picked up a third round of lunches this week at the Kentwood branch.

Ridgell’s budgeting struggle is not unique. Many families across the nation continue to struggle with the growing inflation rates of food. According to the trading economics’ website, the price of food has increased by 10% from last year.

The free lunch program will offer a variety of food options for children who have special dietary needs.

“Our goal with the program is to be able to provide more options for kids and families facing hunger in the summer,” Ludema said.

Typically, libraries host children reading time or activities during the same hours that lunch pickups are scheduled. Christine Heckman, branch librarian with KDL, said the “Gather to Grow program goes very nicely with the food pantry that we have at our Kentwood branch.”