One in five Michigan kids experiences hunger according to the nonprofit organization Kids’ Food Basket. The organization, as well as the Allegan County Community Foundation, are working to provide awareness and solve the problem of hunger one meal at a time.
For many people it is hard to comprehend that hunger is an issue in the affluent Holland area. However, the number of children that qualify for free or reduced breakfast and lunch at public schools is often much larger in this area than many people realize. The statistics from Michigan Schools Data outlined these numbers per school and showed just how many students had families that struggle financially in each school in the area. For instance, one of the more shocking numbers was from Fennville Elementary School in which 75.17 percent of students qualified for free or reduced lunch.
Kristen Armstrong, Executive Director of the Saugatuck Center for the Arts who provides awareness about the problem, said, “I think everyone would agree that a child doesn’t make themselves poor. A child finds him or herself in a situation that they have no control over. It’s almost incredibly difficult for them to really do something about the issue.”
However, organizations in the community are trying to change hunger insecurity. Teresa Bray works with the Allegan County Food Pantry Collaborative, which runs seventeen food pantries in the area. In addition, they also have a school supplies drive before the school year starts and a toy drive during Christmas.
Kids’ Food Basket is another group that packages sack dinners and brings them to schools in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland. In Holland alone, the group supports thirteen schools and “serves around 450 students each week day,” said Troy Vos of Kid’s Food Basket.
Another major part of the organization is its program Kids Helping Kids. The program aims to educate the public by creating lesson plans for teachers and having students of the schools they are aiding package the dinners.
Dr. Lana Zarlenga was specifically impressed with this program. “I feel like the participation of the students will stay with them much longer than picking up a lunch or a dinner.”
Kids Food Basket is always looking for volunteers of all ages in the Holland area. Check out their website at kidsfoodbasket.com for more information on how you can get involved and help local children.