GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Each school year volunteers with Kids' Food Basket pack and deliver sack suppers that go home with roughly 7,500 West Michigan students.
Most of those students are out of school for the summer. However, hunger does not go on a vacation.
"In fact, 28,700 children here in Kent County are affected by hunger each and every week day. That is like filling up the Van Andel Arena three times over," said Bridget Clark Whitney, executive director of the non-profit organization. "Kids' Food Basket is breaking down those barriers by providing meals right at school. We know that is a direct service to a direct need and because of that we are make a huge impact for kids. But, during the summer months parents often don't know where Kids' Food Basket is or where summer meals are provided."
Currently the organization is providing meals, approximately 3,500 in the summer months, through 25 different sites in Grand Rapids. That includes all of the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation programs, summer school programs and many church programs.
"If parents are interested in where we are, they can certainly call us or definitely attend one of the park programs where kids can receive both lunch and a Kids' Food Basket sack dinner," said Clark Whitney.
However, she says summer months create additional obstacles that keep kids from participating in summer meal programs.
"That is unfortunate," she said. "Much of that is because kids either have barriers of transportation or often times they are taking care of younger siblings at home."
Clark Whitney says, in America, kids are not hungry because of a lack of food. They are hungry because of a lack of access to food. She says the consequences for food insecurity can be severe and life-changing.
"When kids don't have proper nourishment, it can create impediments on brain development, behavioral issues, sicknesses," she said. "That is why our work here is so important. After the age of 12 damage on the brain is totally irreparable. That is why it is so important that we are feeding our young children here in our community."
And, she says support from the community is also essential in their efforts to achieve their mission.
"Our volunteers at Kids' Food Basket are the engine to making sure kids in our community are well nourished," she said. " Each and every weekday we average 175 volunteers in Kent County and over 50 each in our Holland and Muskegon locations. Our volunteers are the only way our children are being fed. We are always in need of more. "
Visit the Kids' Food Basket site for more information, including how to volunteer.
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