Layla McMurtrie: On this week’s episode, we’ll be talking about Food Gatherers of Ann Arbor sponsoring a free summer meal program for the children and young adults of Washtenaw County. I’m Layla McMurtrie, and this is the Eastern Echo Podcast.
Food Gatherers, an Ann Arbor-based food bank and food rescue program, recently sponsored the Summer Food Service Program or SFSP. The program is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and then is locally run by the Michigan Department of Education and sponsors, such as Food Gatherers.
SFSP distributes weekly meals to children in low-income areas during the summer months. Children under the age of 18 and adults up to 26 years of age who are enrolled in a public education program are eligible for these free meals. Parents and guardians can pick up the meals on a weekly basis, and children do not have to be present.
Helen Starman, the chief development officer of Food Gatherers, said the organization has been sponsoring SFSP for over a decade. Starman told the Echo:
Helen Starman: There are different sites throughout the county that are distributing seven days' worth of breakfasts and lunches in bags, so you’d find a site that’s near you, or that’s convenient for your work schedule, and parents, neighbors, friends, can come and pick up a week's worth of meals for each child.
Layla McMurtrie: Despite SFSP ending 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 their food pantries.
Helen Starman: Food insecurity spikes in the summer when children are out of school, and they don't have access to free and reduced-price meals. 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.
Layla McMurtrie: Food insecurity isn’t something that just families face though, college students themselves often struggle with it as well.
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 super important.
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.
Long told the Echo:
“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.”
The SFSP runs from June 17 to Aug. 20 and is currently operating in over 40 locations in Washtenaw County across Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Belleville, and Milan. In Ypsilanti, there are 19 pickup locations available, all of which will provide 14 meals a week per child. Some notable locations include Parkridge Community Center and the Ypsilanti Township Community Center.
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.
As always, thank you for listening, and don’t forget to tune in next Wednesday for another episode. Also, check out our new Eastern Echo Music Podcast hosted by Podcast Section Editor Layla McMurtrie every other Tuesday, where she discusses the hottest new music releases and shares recommendations for every genre.
Reported: Megan Forystek
Scripted: Tre Briscoe
Produced: Cameron Santangelo
Host: Layla McMurtrie