Food Gatherers, an Ann Arbor-based food bank and food rescue program, sponsored the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which distributes weekly meals to children in low-income areas during the summer months.
The SFSP is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and provides free meals for children during the summer. On a local level, the SFSP is run by the Michigan Department of Education and sponsors, such as Food Gatherers.
Children under the age of 18 and adults up to 26 years of age who are enrolled in a public education program are eligible to receive free meals. Parents and guardians can pick up the meals on a weekly basis, and children do not need to be present.
The SFSP runs from June 17 to Aug. 20. There are locations across the country for families to pick up free meals for their children, including over 40 locations in Washtenaw County.
The Washtenaw County SFSP pickup locations are in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Belleville, and Milan. Each location offers pickups for different times and days. There are 19 SFSP pickup locations in Ypsilanti, including:
- Parkridge Community Center, located at 591 Armstrong Drive
- ACCE High School, located at 1076 Ecorse Road
- Ypsilanti Township Community Center/YMCA, located at 2025 E. Clark Road
Helen Starman, the chief development officer of Food Gatherers, said the organization has been sponsoring the SFSP for over a decade. Starman said each pickup location in Washtenaw County will provide 14 meals a week per child.
“There are different sites throughout the county that are distributing seven days' worth of breakfasts and lunches in bags,” Starman said. “Parents, neighbors, friends can come and pick up a week’s worth of meals for each child.”
While the SFSP ends on Aug. 20, many Washtenaw County schools do not return to the classroom until Aug. 30. Starman welcomes any families in need during this time to pick up food from one of Food Gatherers’ pantries.
“Food insecurity spikes in the summer when children are out of school, and they don't have access to free and reduced-price meals,” Starman said. “It’s a great program, but it’s not as easily accessed by families, so we work really hard to make sure that we’re distributing food both through the Summer Food Service Program and then also through our normal network of partner pantries.”
Eva Long, a student senator and president of the Food Recovery Network at EMU, believes that getting involved in the fight against hunger in Washtenaw County is important. Long has been passionate about food insecurity since she first volunteered at a food bank in high school.
“It’s one thing to hear that people are hungry and in need, but it’s another thing entirely to see it for yourself,” Long said. “I knew I wanted to make access to nutrition and nutrition education a lifelong pursuit.”
Long has been working with Swoop’s Food Pantry at EMU to expand their programming, including the development of a food delivery system for students in need. She encourages her fellow students to get involved with Swoop’s on campus and to use their resources if they need it.
“Food banks have plenty of food to go around,” Long said. “If you need help, you’re entitled to it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student or a working parent. The food bank is there for everyone, and I think having students go to the food bank when they need things can certainly reduce stigma.”
To find more information about the SFSP, visit Food Gatherers’ website, or text “FOOD” to 877-877. Food Gatherers welcomes any donations to help support the SFSP and their food pantries in Washtenaw County.