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Tag Archive | "Cedar Springs Hungry Kids"

New program begins to feed hungry kids

By Judy Reed

While children are in school, they receive breakfast and lunch through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. However, over the weekend many students do not have access to the nutritional food they need.

Thanks to a new partnership between the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association, Hand 2 Hand Ministries, and Cedar Springs Public Schools, some kids that go hungry on the weekend won’t have to anymore. 

Hand 2 Hand is an organization that helps communities feed hungry kids in Michigan. Founded in Hudsonville, they currently serve 40 school districts across six counties, including Sparta, Rockford, and Northview schools.

The way it works, is they have one church take a school building, and they provide food for a backpack to be placed in a child’s locker for the weekend. It usually consists of breakfast items, items for lunch, snacks, and items to make a simple dinner, often with a recipe card.

Craig Owens, of the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association, said they really like that approach, but here in Cedar Springs, the approach will be a little bit different. “We have the uniqueness of all of our buildings on one campus, and our ministerial association works so well together, we thought why not have the whole ministerial association take on the whole campus? Let’s pool our resources, share the responsibility,” he said. They will also supply food to Creative Technologies Academy students as well.

How will our churches be involved? “We have some meal planners for the month. As they project out, we might go to a church and ask them to get canned chicken, another church fruit cups, or boxes of cereal—common things and make it simple,” said Owens. “To fill in the gaps, others have made financial commitments and we have a couple of shoppers to pick up what else we need.”

Volunteers will also be needed for the next step. “We will have volunteers to pack meals and delivery people to go to particular buildings to put meals in the lockers,” explained Owens. He said the backpacks would initially be provided by Hand 2 Hand. The child can bring the backpack back on Monday and leave it in their locker to be refilled on Thursday.

How will students be selected? “We have talked to the principals, social workers/counselors, and asked them to identify students who might need it,” he explained. Once identified, the school will send a letter to the parents, and if they agree, the child will get food in their locker on Thursday evenings to take home on Friday. “Hand 2 Hand has designed the letter that goes out to parents. The application just has a parent list the names and grades of students for them to get food at the right location. It’s not a screening tool. We are not trying to see if they qualify,” noted Owens. He said principals are already beginning to identify students and they are already rolling on a limited basis. 

Superintendent Scott Smith was familiar with the program when he was assistant Superintendent at Hudsonville and he thinks it’s a great program for Cedar Springs. He was more than happy to make space at the Hilltop Administration building for the pantry area and to prepare bags for delivery. “I think it’s a phenomenal community outreach that supports an essential need in the lives of students. Families are benefitting as well,” he said.

He explained how they had Beach Picnic basket at Beach Elementary for many years, founded by Robin DeLine. “She did a great job, much of it herself. But the needs continued to grow, and we couldn’t do it with the limits of Robin’s team. 

“We are happy to be able to benefit families across the district. We are happy to partner with Craig and the Ministerial Association and the community of Cedar Springs to make a difference in the lives of kids.”

Jenny Steele is the Hand 2 Hand representative for northern Kent County. She said the feedback they get on the program is wonderful. She mentioned that a teacher told her about a student who used to act up at the beginning of the week. “He was so disruptive it was hard for her to teach. As the week wore on and the student had breakfast and lunch daily, the student would settle down. But on Monday, it would start again. Once the backpacks started coming, they didn’t have those issues anymore,” she said.

She also related a story a principal told her about a student whose home life was hard. Her mom had been in jail, and she and her siblings had been in a few foster homes, and were preparing to be moved again to another family. The student was in tears about it, not knowing what to expect. The principal, not sure how to help her, used the Hand 2 Hand program to connect with her. She and her siblings were part of the program, and she was the oldest. 

“The principal asked her, what did she find in her locker every Friday morning? And she told him the backpack with food. He told her that it would always be there, it was something she could depend on. Then added, ‘There are people who love you and care for you. They put that food there because they believe in you and that you can do great things.’ He said it seemed to bring her some relief.

“We just know there’s a need for this,” added Steele. “We are physically helping and emotionally filling a need, and ensuring they have something they can rely on.”

There are several ways people can help here in Cedar Springs:

*They can donate the food asked for through their church.

*They can make a financial donation to the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association through their church for the program and the church can pass it along. Or they can send it directly to the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association c/o Cedar Springs United Methodist Church, PO Box K, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

*They can volunteer to pack bags or deliver them. If you’d like to volunteer, call Craig Owens at (616) 667-7773 or email him at craig@cscalvary.org.

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