Getting children to maintain healthy habits in the summer is a struggle. But it’s even more challenging when a family’s budget is tight.
That’s why United Way for Southeastern Michigan works to connect families with Meet Up and Eat Up summer meal sites, where children ages 18 and under can get free meals all summer long.
Awareness is key
Half a million Michigan children receive nutritious free and reduced-price meals during the school year, yet only 17 percent of those kids access summer meals because families still don’t know these meals are available – or can’t access them.
United Way, working with the Michigan Department of Education and local partners, aims to change that.
The Meet Up and Eat Up initiative is increasing food access and raising nutrition standards at the 700-plus summer meal sites in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, plus hundreds more statewide. Sites can be found in schools, churches, libraries, recreation centers and even as part of some summer camp programs.
“These sites are a blessing for parents,” says Sara Gold, program director of the Healthy Kids initiative at United Way. “Each summer over a million children visit our sites, and families can know that their kids are being watched over, active and well fed at the same time.”
In the tri-county area, Meet Up and Eat Up sites served more than 1.5 million meals in 2017 – up from 700,000 in 2011.
United Way partners with the Michigan Department of Education to help local partners like Gleaners Community Food Bank and the YMCA with logistical support, nutrition guidance and funding. In summer 2018, more than $220,000 in United Way grants helped support improvements at sites run by 12 partners.
“By building strong partnerships and creating solutions with those partners, we can increase access to meals and improve the quality of those meals,” says Gold.
Spread the word
Every summer, United Way works with schools, places of worship, nonprofit partners and government entities to spread the word about summer meal sites. It also hosts five community block parties and canvass neighborhoods each summer to raise awareness.
There’s still work to be done to ensure every family in Michigan has access to summer meals – and you can help spread the word.
Meet Up and Eat Up summer meal sites locations can be found by calling United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline, or by texting “FOOD” to 877-877.
For more information, visit the United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s Meet Up and Eat Up website.