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Summer food program begins next week

Krystle Wagner • Jun 8, 2019 at 2:00 PM

An annual summer food program begins next week for all area kids younger than 18.

The Meet Up and Eat Up (MUEU) program will start Monday, June 10, at four locations in the Tri-Cities area and Monday, June 24, at Robinson Elementary School. The program is aimed at providing a way to give children access to healthy meals, even when school isn’t in session, said Amy Sheele, health educator for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

“Many children rely on free breakfast and lunch from school during the year, and this program was initially designed to make sure those needs are met during the summer months,” she said. “The great thing about MUEU is that there are no eligibility requirements. Kids can just show up and eat. This makes the program available to everyone.”

The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered through the Michigan Department of Education.

In addition to meals, activities will also be provided at Lake Hills Elementary School and the River Haven community.

While the program runs throughout the summer, all locations will be closed July 4-5.

Lunch will be offered from 12-12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, June 10 to Aug. 8, at Lake Hills Elementary School, River Haven and Robinson Elementary School. Lunch will also be offered from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at The Salvation Army in Grand Haven.

The Grand Haven Central Park site will only offer meals on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12-12:30 p.m.

Breakfast and dinner are also offered at the Robinson location from 9:10-9:40 a.m. and 4:30-5 p.m., respectively.

Thirty-six sites throughout Ottawa County will provide meals. Officials anticipate serving more than 40,000 meals this summer.

Not including information of how many were served at Holland Public Schools, 37,604 meals were served last year in Ottawa County. The Grand Haven sites served 10,645 meals.

Some individuals participating in the Meet Up and Eat Up program include children involved in the Northwest Ottawa Recreation Authority’s Recreational Summer School program. The nine-week program is hosted at three locations: River Haven, and Lake Hills and Ferry elementary schools. Designed for incoming kindergarten through fourth-grade students, the program is a way to keep kids physically active and engaged, said Jackie Rowland, NORA’s program coordinator.

The program receives funding through the Greater Ottawa County United Way’s health initiative. There’s also a $45 registration fee.

Throughout the day, students participate in activities, field trips and receive lunch through the Meet Up and Eat Up program. Campers at Ferry walk to The Salvation Army, while the other locations have meals on site.

The program was piloted at Lake Hills Elementary School last year, and it’s been expanded to five days a week because of the support and success, Rowland said. Currently, 250 children are signed up for the program, and officials expect 300 this summer. Families can register throughout the summer by calling the NORA office at 616-850-5125.

Rowland said they hope to provide safety, stability and healthy opportunities for students to participate in.

Through the program, students wear a pedometer and set goals for the number of steps they aim to take each day. Rowland said it’s fun watching the kids connect that physical activity helps them meet their goals while also having fun.

“It gives them that opportunity to see that healthy can be fun, and healthy means happy,” she said.

In addition to receiving healthy meals, Sheele said MUEU is a way for people to interact and gain educational value. For example, when families visit the Central Park location for lunch, she said it is hoped that they walk across the street to Loutit District Library and participate in their programs.

Local sites and times:

Grand Haven Central Park: Mondays and Wednesdays, June 10 to Aug. 7; lunch: 12-12:30 p.m.

Lake Hills Elementary School: Monday through Friday, June 10 to Aug. 8; lunch: 12-12:30 p.m.; activities: 12-1 p.m.

River Haven: Monday through Friday, June 10 to Aug. 8; lunch: 12-12:30 p.m.; activities: 12-1 p.m.

Robinson Elementary School: Monday through Friday, June 24 to Aug. 5; breakfast: 9:10-9:40 a.m.; lunch: 12-12:30 p.m.; dinner: 4:30-5 p.m.

The Salvation Army, Grand Haven: Monday through Friday, June 10 to Aug. 8; lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

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