In a dramatic testament, both to Michigan’s economic struggles and increased outreach efforts by the Michigan Department of Education and anti-hunger advocates, the number of meals served to needy children in Michigan in June 2008 increased 45% over the number served in June 2007. 314,997 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) lunches were served to Michigan children, according to Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, an annual analysis by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). More children were served because the number of program sponsors increased 4% and the number of sites grew 2.5%. On an average day in July 2008, 42,244 low-income Michigan children participated in the SFSP - an increase of 8% from July 2007. For the full report, see www.frac.org. (Food Research and Action Center)
Although Michigan has made impressive strides with increasing SFSP participation, the state is feeding far fewer children that it could be. Currently, for every 100 children that receive school lunch during the regular school year, only 9 receive summer meals. According to FRAC, if Michigan were to reach 40 children with summer food for every 100 low-income children who receive school lunch during the regular school year, the state would have fed an additional 125,618 children each day during the summer and brought in $8,256,272 more federal dollars to do so.
Due to Michigan’s hard times, demand for emergency food, has increased to the point where many providers can barely keep up with the need. According the Food Bank Council of Michigan, the number of Michigan residents seeking help with emergency food has increased 30 percent over the past year. “The Summer Food Service Program is an important source of help for families who are making tough choices about whether to purchase food, buy gas to go to work, or pay household bills,” explains Stephanie Willingham, Food and Nutrition Program Specialist for the Center for Civil Justice, an organization that advocates for low-income individuals.
In its national report, FRAC made the following recommendations for Congress to make improvements in the program that could benefit Michigan:
Center for Civil Justice joined FRAC in calling for Congress to increase investments in summer food and other child nutrition programs. “The programs as structured now reach too few children and significant improvements must be made to expand their reach,” said Jim Weill, FRAC president. All of the child nutrition programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, are set to be reauthorized this year as part of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization. These programs fill the food gap for the thousands of Michigan’s low-income children (and their families) who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the school year to help keep hunger at bay. Through these programs, children aged 18 and under, can receive free meals at participating summer sites at schools, parks departments, other public agencies, and nonprofits.
In Michigan, families can find nearby summer meal sites by contacting the Center for Civil Justice (CCJ) at 1-800-481-4989 or accessing www.mich.gov/sfsp. Callers in the metro Detroit area may be able to get information on local sites by calling 211. CCJ operates a toll-free statewide Food and Nutrition Helpline out of Flint in partnership with Michigan State University Extension’s Food and Nutrition Program, the Department of Human Services, and other private donors. Callers may also find out if they are eligible for Food Assistance (food stamps) and obtain information about other nutrition programs and services for which they may be eligible.