Every summer weekday morning, workers at the Genesee County Community Action Resource Department (GCCARD) cook, pack, and deliver hundreds of nutritionally balanced, hot meals to kids across Flint who otherwise might not eat. Food is central to healthy development in kids, but constraints such as poverty, parent work schedules, and limited food availability make it difficult for many Flint families to provide nutritious meals for their children.
The Meet Up and Eat Up program will serve 1,300 children and youth.
Exacerbating the current crisis is the fact that Flint is a "food desert," with no major grocery stores present within the city limits.
During the school year, free breakfasts and lunches served at school help keep bellies full. But every summer, thousands of children lack access to regular, healthy meals. A $167,000 Flint Kids grant expands GCCARD's Meet Up and Eat Up program from 22 to at least 35 sites, and establishes year-round sites for weekend meals. The purpose is to increase child and family access to high quality, nutritious meals that will reduce the long-term effects of lead poisoning.
"Flint needs prolonged, sustained and comprehensive approaches to child and family health and development," said Laura Rahmaad, GCCARD's Director of Nutrition Services. "School-age children and youth lack access to nutritious meals when schools are not in session. This includes summer vacations, holidays, school breaks and weekends. Sufficient, high quality food and nutrition is a cornerstone of immediate and long-term intervention efforts."
Meals are designed to provide increased levels of iron, calcium, phosphorous, zinc and Vitamin C-minerals that have been proven to reduce the effects of lead poisoning. All Flint children are eligible to participate in the program.