Here’s where you can find free meals for metro Detroit kids this summer

Young children sit at a long white table and eat lunch in a school cafeteria.
A number of programs are available to provide free summer meals for children in metro Detroit during the summer school break. (Anthony Lanzilote for Chalkbeat)

Resources are available for metro Detroit families who need help keeping food on the table while school is out.

One in six kids in Michigan face food insecurity, according to the nonprofit Feeding America. In Michigan, more than 850,000 children rely on free public school lunches and more than 474,000 eat breakfast in school. During the summer, children who rely on free school meals are at an increased risk of hunger, but households can get a boost from extra food assistance benefits and mobile pantries.

“Families rely heavily on ... the free and reduced lunch and so when school is closed they’re grasping at straws trying to find the resources to feed their families,” said Kelly McEvoy, director of food programs for Oak Park-based Forgotten Harvest.

The food rescue nonprofit served nearly 180,000 people in April, up from roughly 131,000 in January — a 37% increase.

“Even people who were fine before the pandemic might be struggling now just because of the cost,” McEvoy said. “Our lines have gotten busier at our mobile pantries where we service people. That tells me that there’s more people in need because (of) rising expenses.”

Here are ways families can get some help:

Metro Detroit Mobile Pantries operate through August

Between June and August, Forgotten Harvest is providing meals throughout metro Detroit for children who are out of school on summer break and do not have reliable access to food. The lunches are available through participating tutoring programs, sports camps, some Detroit Public Library locations, and events such as Metro Detroit Youth Day on July 10 at Belle Isle. Meals — including sandwiches, fruits and vegetables, and snacks — will also be available at 12 mobile pantries, starting June 24, including:

  • Straight Gate Church: 10100 Grand River Avenue, Detroit; first and fourth Thursday of the month from 9 a.m. to noon
  • Alternatives for Girls in Detroit: 903 W. Grand Boulevard, Detroit; first and third Thursday of the month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Gompers/Brightmoor Alliance: 14450 Burt Road, Detroit; second and fourth Friday of the month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Anne Visger Preparatory Academy: 11121 W. Jefferson Avenue, Detroit; Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon
  • Oakland Church of Christ: 23333 W 10 Mile Road, Southfield; second and fourth Thursday of the month from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Kensington Church: 25000 Hall Road, Clinton Township; Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Woodside Bible Church in Lake Orion: 2500 Joslyn Road, Lake Orion; Mondays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan – La Casa Amiga: 76 Williams Street, Pontiac; first and third Tuesday of the month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • St. Clemente: 247 S. Main Street, Romeo; Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon.
  • Metropolitan Church of the Nazarene: 18945 Frazho Road, Roseville; second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 9 a.m. to noon, with registration at 7 a.m.
  • Bethesda Christian Church: 14000 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights; first and third Monday of the month from 4-5:30 p.m.
  • Citizens Changing Communities (Hand Up Inc.): 9650 Wayne Road, Romulus; Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information and any updates, go to www.forgottenharvest.org/find-food/.

Summer Food Assistance available for families

The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer — Summer EBT — is a federal program to help families with school-aged children buy food. Students who receive state aid, such as cash assistance or Medicaid, or those who attend a school participating in the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program are eligible. Families can get $120 for three months of benefits from June to August. Benefits will be issued Aug. 10, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS.

If a child is already receiving food assistance, the additional benefits will be loaded onto the Bridge card. Otherwise, they will receive a card via mail.

Students who have already been approved for free and reduced-price meals by completing a school meals and Summer EBT application, or the education benefits form for schools that are part of the Community Eligibility Provision, do not need to apply for the Summer EBT program, according to MDHHS. Those who receive state assistance do not need to apply either. All other students must contact their schools to complete a form.

For more information, go to bit.ly/MichiganSummerEBT.

Meet Up and Eat Up has sites across Michigan

Michigan’s Summer Food Service Program, also known as Meet Up and Eat Up, provides free meals to low-income children at locations across the state. For more information about locations and service dates and times, go to the online tracker: www.michigan.gov/meetupeatup.

Double Up Food Bucks help families buy fruit and veggies

Families can use the Double Up Food Bucks program to earn as much as $20 a day for fruits and vegetables at more than 230 participating stores and markets, including 50 in metro Detroit. The program, run by Fair Food Network, matches produce purchases for low-income shoppers using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, food benefits.

“Every year, one million Michiganders use SNAP to help put food on the table. While these dollars are vital for closing the food insecurity gap, families using SNAP still struggle to afford the fresh fruits and vegetables they need to stay healthy,” Fair Food Network CEO Kate Krauss said in a news release. “Our Double Up program matches SNAP dollars spent on fruits and vegetables so that people with low incomes can literally double the amount of nutritious food they buy.”

Fair Food Network is waiting for a decision from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on whether families can match their Summer EBT dollars with the Double Up Food Bucks program.

For more information and to find participating locations, go to https://doubleupfoodbucks.org/.

Nushrat Rahman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit and the Detroit Free Press. You can reach her at nrahman@freepress.com.

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