Feeding America West Michigan launches food program for children

A local nonprofit launched a new summer lunch program this week.

Feeding America West Michigan kicked off Gather 2 Grow on Monday, June 6, a summer lunch program funded in part by a $20,000 donation from Belmont Engineered Plastics.

Gather 2 Grow replaced Library Lunches to Go, which took place in 15 Kent District libraries last year.

This year, Gather 2 Grow will offer free lunches to children 18 and under, as well as people with disabilities up to 26 years old. The food will be offered at 25 libraries in Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Muskegon and Newaygo counties and will include nut-free options.

“Children need food to learn, grow and have fun in the summer,” said Shay Kovacs, programs manager at Feeding America West Michigan. “Gather 2 Grow will ease the burden on parents so they don’t have to worry about how they will feed their children after school ends.”

In 2021, 50% of Michigan children were eligible for free and discounted lunches during the school year, but only 15% had access to summer lunches through the state’s Meet Up & Eat Up program. Gather 2 Grow aims to make meals easier for children by increasing options.

Feeding America West Michigan aims to expand the program to other parts of its 40-county service area in the coming years. The food bank also plans to provide educational resources in addition to lunches. This expansion is one of the goals of its recently announced Nourish Tomorrow campaign.

Gather 2 Grow has a full meal schedule available here.

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