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16,000 DPS free lunch kids to get food help in summer

State of Michigan

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expanding a pilot program to help children get nutritious meals when their school's free lunch program has shut down for the summer.

For a long time, the agency has funded a program that sets up meal sites at churches and other locations, where children can go to get meals in the summer time.

But many children in rural and inner-city neighborhoods have no site near them, or no safe and reliable way to get there.

The Summer EBT program is intended as an alternative way to make sure children don't go hungry during the summer months.

Eligible families get a kind of food stamp Bridge card, with money that can be used to pay for food. 

Janey Thornton is Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at the USDA.

She says too often, government-sponsored meal programs like Summer EBT are the only reason some low-income children regularly eat.

'Before kids leave school for a holiday, you can see them eat until sometimes you're afraid they're going to be sick," she told Michigan Radio, "and then when they come back they eat and eat and eat, because they've not had food at home."

Last year, the Summer EBT program served children in Grand Rapids and five mid-Michigan counties.  This year, the program will be expanded to include neighborhoods in Detroit.

Some families will get the original $60 a month per child on their EBT bridge card. 

Others will get $30 - to see if that amount can make a difference in child hunger, and stretch federal dollars further to serve more children.

The card will only pay for certain nutritious foods, like milk, wheat bread, tortillas, peanut butter, beans, fruits and vegetables and non-sugary cereals. 

Thornton says the program reduced what's known as "very low food security" among enrolled school children by more than 30-percent last year.

Very low food security means children have to skip meals because there's not enough food at home.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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