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Free meals for Grand Rapids' youth this summer

All Grand Rapids youth 18 and under may access free breakfast and lunch at several locations, with no registration or papers necessary. Families are encouraged to text FOODMI to 877-877 for information about locations nearest them, meal types, times and directions.

/Sarah Koupal

Underwriting support from:
Free meal sites in Grand Rapids, summer 2016

Free meal sites in Grand Rapids, summer 2016 /Courtesy of Kids Food Basket

Free meal sites in Grand Rapids, summer 2016

Free meal sites in Grand Rapids, summer 2016 /Courtesy of Kids Food Basket

Hunger and food insecurity don’t take a summer vacation. Healthy kids who are successful in the classroom need good nutrition, and they need it year round. National benchmarks suggest that 40 percent of kids who regularly eat free or reduced price school meals also need access to summer meals if their nutritional needs are to be adequately met.

Kids’ Food Basket, in collaboration with Michigan No Kid Hungry and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), is serving as a promotional partner for the free Meet Up and Eat Up™ Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) in Grand Rapids and surrounding areas.

“Now that it’s summer, families that are already struggling to provide an evening meal also have to worry about providing the breakfast and lunch our students get at school during the school-year,” Kids’ Food Basket’s Executive Director, Bridget Clark Whitney shares. “By utilizing state-wide partnerships with organizations like Michigan No Kid Hungry, and continuing to serve Sack Suppers all summer long, Kids’ Food Basket can ensure that kids get the nutrition that is critical for their healthy development — even when school is not in session.”

The Meet Up and Eat Up™ sites serve nutritious meals to children 18 and under living in low-income areas (where 50 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced price school meals). The program can operate in schools, public housing centers, playgrounds, camps, parks, and faith-based facilities. The program begins mid-June, and more than 30 sites in the greater Grand Rapids area will be serving free meals to children.

“Meet Up and Eat Up provides our students not only with an opportunity to receive a nutritious meal, but to connect with friends and fun activities at the school, as well,” said Gwen Heatley, Challenge Scholars Coordinator at Harrison Park.

Parents, families and caregivers can easily find the location nearest them by calling 2-1-1, or texting FOODMI to 877-877. The MDE also provides the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Site Locator Map, which allows families to identify the nearest Meet Up and Eat Up™ site, including information about locations, meal types, times, and driving directions. The map can be found at

“Our summer activities are scheduled around the Meet Up and Eat Up times for the convenience of students and parents,” Heatley said. “Parents can meet with one another while their children eat. They can use the time to find out what's happening in their neighborhoods and community while the students explore quiet reading time, gardening, chess, or other club programs.”

Meet Up and Eat Up allows the Boys & Girls Clubs to support students inside and outside the building, said Shawn Flood, Club Director for Paul I. Phillips Club.

“Nutrition is the cornerstone to all that we do,” he added. “Kids can’t learn, have fun, or develop a positive character when their minds are distracted and [they are hungry].  A healthy lifestyle is an important outcome that we work to see in all of our students and the meals enable us to achieve this goal.”

People and organizations interested in more information about getting involved as a site, an activity provider, or a volunteer this summer should contact Julie VanGessel at 616-235-4532 ext 234 or use the MDE website at Additional information and Meet Up and Eat Up resources are available at

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