West Michigan County Libraries Offer Free Meal Programs

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Feeding America of West Michigan partnered with county libraries this summer to provide free healthy lunches for kids 18 and under. Additionally, individuals up to age 26 with mental or physical disabilities may also be eligible for this library lunch program.

“School lunches aren’t happening anymore,” said Juliana Ludema of Feeding America West Michigan. “So a lot of parents need that extra little help to provide lunch for their kids.”

In Kent County, 15 Kent District Library (KDL) branches will be offering meal pickups for families Monday through Friday until August 12. “Coming together to grow” program days and times vary from branch to branch. Several libraries in Allegan, Ionia, Muskegon and Newaygo counties have also partnered with Feeding American West Michigan.

“We budget really well, but just covering a few meals a week really helps,” said Calina Ridgell, mother of three young boys, as she had a third round of lunches this week at the Kentwood branch.

Ridgell’s budget struggle is not unique. Many families across the country continue to struggle with rising food inflation rates. According to business economics websitefood prices have increased by 10% compared to last year.

The free lunch program will provide a variety of food options for children with special dietary needs.

“Our goal with the program is to be able to provide more options for children and families facing hunger in the summer,” Ludema said.

Typically, libraries host reading times or children’s activities during the same hours as lunch pickups. Christine Heckman, branch librarian at KDL, said, “The Gather to Grow program goes really well with the pantry we have at our Kentwood branch.”

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