Stabenow Announces Expansion of Free Summer Meals for Michigan Children

Elementary school kids indulged in breakfast options, snacks, and milk at Waverly East School in Lansing on Wednesday as officials unveiled a plan that will provide free breakfast and lunch to children across Michigan — even during summer break.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing), head of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, spearheaded an effort to allocate federal resources to enhance food accessibility for children over the summer. While some kids had access to free meals during the school year, this initiative will ensure that summer meals become a permanent fixture.

“We have a wonderful setup for breakfast, lunch, and snacks in school,” Stabenow remarked. “But come summer, we’ve observed a significant decrease in funding, limited flexibility, and support for summer meals.”

As per Phil Knight, Executive Director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan, the state is pioneering this program, inspired by COVID-19 food benefits.

While other states are expected to tap into federal funds, some Republican governors have turned down the assistance.

“Providing meals to children shouldn’t be a matter of political affiliation,” noted State Superintendent Michael Rice.

Stabenow anticipates that 900,000 children in Michigan will benefit from the program this summer. The new sustained funding is divided into three categories, offering families varying options to access food.

“We’ve had onsite meals for a long time, but it’s always been a battle for funding each year,” Stabenow revealed. “Now, we have a permanent solution without the annual struggle for summer meals.”

The initial category is a “traditional summer meals” setup, catering to kids at specific venues without the need for an application. Another option is the “meals-to-go” program, catering to rural areas, where families can collect multiple meals at once or opt for food delivery.

“We’ve introduced multiple flexibilities to enhance food pickup opportunities,” Stabenow emphasized.

The last choice is for children enrolled in schools participating in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program, receiving free or reduced-price lunch, or qualifying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid.

“We’re meeting people where they are, recognizing the need for this as an investment, not just an expense,” stated Knight.

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