During these unprecedented times, the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD) has ramped up its food distribution efforts to ensure all students in need receive nutritious meals while school doors remain closed.
“At the MISD, our program feeds our students door-to-door, because of our special population and so many of the students have immunocompromised systems, many of our students can’t get out unless there’s a special adaptive piece of equipment that’s required,” says Carolyn Thomas, child nutrition consultant who operates the MISD’s child nutrition program. “And (with) many of our children, the parents can’t get out when the children are at home, so we made the decision that we wanted our students to have the same accessibility to these meals.”
In addition to the home delivery service for students with special needs, some districts are offering pick-up sites or a combination of bus route deliveries and site pick-ups to other students who are in need.
Through the unanticipated school closure program, in addition to a number of waivers from the USDA, the MISD will be able to continue to feed its students in this way until Aug. 31, 2020.
“I am thrilled to be able to continue this service,” Thomas says.
Food distribution efforts
Through one central production facility, 17,000 meals are prepared and distributed each week, Thomas notes. Keeping kids and employees safe is top of mind, so a robust sanitation system is in place.
Two breakfasts and two lunches are delivered on Mondays and Wednesdays, while three breakfasts and three lunches are delivered to students on Fridays — and all meals are packed in thermal coolers that were donated by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM).
There are additional food programs running, as well, Thomas notes. Families can pick up free produce box lunches from the Flynn Education Center in Sterling Heights on Tuesdays June 4, 11, 18 and 25, 2020. Pickup times are from 9 a.m. until noon.
Gleaners Community Food Bank also distributes food at the Flynn Education Center from 2:30 until 5:30 p.m. Upcoming dates are June 9 and 23, 2020. Gleaners pickups are also taking place at the Lutz School in Clinton Township from 9 a.m. until noon on June 16 and 30, 2020. The Bovenschen School in Warrenis another site for Gleaners food distribution from 9 a.m. until noon on June 11 and 25, 2020.
Additionally, every Thursday at the Flynn Education Center, families can pick up the Farmers to Families Food Box from the USDA, which has partnered with local farmers to supply fresh and wholesome food to families during the COVID-19 crisis.
All of these programs are essential during this time, Thomas notes, as food insecurity should not be a concern for anyone during this crisis.
“It truly is a labor of love,” Thomas says. “These children deserve to receive healthy and nutrition meals.”
Support for all residents
Ensuring that residents, both young and old, are eating nutritious meals has truly been a county-wide effort, says Jim Burke, liaison for the Macomb County Emergency Operation Center, so the county partnered with all 21 school districts to make sure they were supported.
“We want to make sure the districts had all the support from the county level that they needed from us and that we partnered with them to get information out to the greater community,” Burke says. “A lot of the school distribution sites are seen as a central point of information for our community. We printed up banners and fliers and postcards and really worked hand-in-hand with the food directors and the districts.”
However, that support extends beyond the districts.
At the county level, Burke notes that Macomb County Action supports residents when it comes to finding food locally. Those looking for additional information on where to find food can visit the Macomb Food Resource Map. This map, which was created by Macomb County Action, includes information for all of the 60 food pantries in Macomb, the public school distribution locations, and any one-time food distribution events.
During this time, more than 2 million meals have been served, Burke notes.
“I don’t think the public understands how large of an operation that this is,” he says, adding that from a personal standpoint, the food service people are unsung heroes during this time. “Without them, we would be in a very desperate situation right now.”
For more information on the Macomb Intermediate School District, visit misd.net.