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Cereal drive targets a downside of summer: child hunger

There’s an effort underway to make sure kids who usually get breakfast at school don’t go hungry in the summer months.

This is the fifth year that nurses at the Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital have taken up a cereal drive for those at-risk kids.

The drive was the brainchild of Pam Taurence and her colleagues on the Professional Nurse Council.

Taurence says it started in 2010, when the group was trying to come up with an idea for a community service project.

The subject of poor childhood nutrition came up, as did concerns about kids who usually get meals, including breakfast, at school—a nutritional lifeline that largely disappears during the summer months. That’s more than 300,000 kids in southeast Michigan alone.

Taurence says pediatric nurses see the consequences of hunger all the time.

At Children’s Hospital, they frequently get young kids diagnosed with what’s called “failure to thrive:” stunted growth that’s often caused by poor nutrition. If not addressed when a child is relatively young, the condition can permanently affect brain development.

“If they’re formula-fed babies, they [parents] might be mixing it incorrectly because they’re trying to make it go further,” Taurence says. “Or they just don’t have the resources to put enough food on the table.

“We see this every day.”

Taurence says that after some debate, the Council decided on a cereal drive. There were a number of reasons: It’s a food kids like; they can eat it with or without milk; it has a pretty long shelf life; and it’s a relatively expensive item not often donated to food banks.

The first cereal drive was just within Children’s Hospital. But it’s taken off since, developing into what Taurence calls a “friendly national competition.”

“Each year we’ve progressed,” Taurence says. “Now we have 17 hospitals that are involved in it, and it’s a pretty big deal.”

Last year, the cereal drive raised more than 1.5 million servings nationwide--a total organizers hope to surpass this year.

Taurence says anyone who wants to donate “healthy” cereal can do so at a number of drop-off centers throughout Metro Detroit, or donate online.

The drive ends this Friday.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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