Summer food program served 9,000 meals

Krystle Wagner • Aug 30, 2016 at 11:00 AM

More than 9,000 meals were served during a local food program this past summer.

From June until last week, the Summer Food Service Program provided federally funded meals at Grand Haven Central Park, Grand Haven Salvation Army, River Haven Community and Robinson Elementary School.

Depending on the weather and attendance at each site, the different locations served between 50 and 150 meals each day, said Sarah Stone, director of dining services for Chartwells School Dining Services at Grand Haven Area Public Schools.

The program provided free meals to children younger than 18, or individuals up to 26 years old who are physically or mentally disabled or are enrolled in an education program.

The Grand Haven Area Public Schools program expanded this year to include the River Haven location because Grand Haven schools runs an after school program there.

The Salvation Army location was also added, and it was previously run by another school district.

“We were able to reach more children with expanding our sites to different locations,” Stone said. “We had several families thankful for this program because summer is a real struggle for them when it comes to putting food on the table.”

Last summer, the program provided more than 3,500 meals at the Central Park location.

Love INC Tri-Cities also provided supplemental food bags during the meals at Central Park on Tuesdays and River Haven on Fridays.

Depending on the week, 10 to 45 bags of six individual-sized meals were distributed at River Haven, and up to 85 bags with two meals were given out at the Grand Haven location, Josh Bytwerk, operations director at Love INC, said.

The federal summer food program partnership is seen as an extension of the Love INC Backpack Blessings program, which provides weekend meals during the school year for students who qualify for federal free and reduced-price meal programs, Bytwerk said.

In previous years, the program has served about 235 children each week at Ferry, Peach Plains, Robinson, Lake Hills, Griffin and Holmes elementary Schools. The program is growing to include White Pines Intermediate School this year.

Agencies that supported the summer food program included Grand Haven Area Public Schools, Department of Health and Human Services, Grand Haven Area Community Foundation/Youth Advisory Council, Northwest Ottawa Recreation Authority, Love INC, Great Start Parent Coalition, Ottawa County Department of Public Health, Loutit District Library, Ottawa County Food Policy Council, River Haven Village, The Salvation Army of Grand Haven, Tri-Cities Historical Museum and Tri-Cities Access Network.

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