Food bank council addressing COVID-19

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Food bank trucks will be on location to help distribute meal boxes that follow the same nutritional value of USDA requirements. Courtesy Feeding America West Michigan

The Food Bank Council of Michigan is seeking more volunteers and applying for waivers to activate its Summer Feeding program early in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order last week to close Michigan K-12 schools through April 5 prompted the Food Bank Council of Michigan to create an emergency plan to address the increased demand from families with children for meals while schools are closed.

Intended to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the closure means that at least 897,037 children in Michigan will not have meals for at least the next three weeks. Students typically receive at least breakfast and lunch at school through the free and reduced meal program.

Safety protocols such as staying at home and social distancing also have reduced the amount of help with packing and distributing food, so the council is putting out a call for more volunteers.

“Our immediate needs are startup funding and volunteers,” said Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “Our seven regional food banks are excellent at meeting the daily needs of our residents and families facing food insecurity. The issues surrounding the COVID-19 virus, however, substantially impact our ability to feed nearly 1 million more children and others during this national pandemic.”

The Food Bank Council is working with the Michigan Department of Education to apply for waivers to activate the Summer Feeding program.

If awarded, the program will help cover the costs of feeding hungry children while school is closed.

Currently, the Food Bank Council has the following plan for food distribution to families with school-age children:

  • The state’s seven regional food banks — including the South Michigan Food Bank based in Battle Creek and Feeding America West Michigan based in Comstock Park — will package the food into boxes.
  • The council will work with school partners to determine the appropriate time for distribution.
  • Schools will communicate the time and location for food pickup to their communities.
  • Food bank trucks will be on location to help distribute meal boxes that follow the same nutritional value of USDA requirements.

“This process helps ensure adherence to safety protocols, keeping everyone involved safe and helping meet the need of our hungry students,” Knight said.

To donate or volunteer, call the Food Bank Council of Michigan at (517) 485-1202 or visit fbcmich.org.

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