CALEDONIA, Mich. — When 6-year-old Janessa Munger walked up to the Book Mobile at Dutton Mills Village on Thursday, she didn’t know which meal to pick.
“There’s nachos. We’ve got taco hummus,” said Kelaine Mish, a librarian with Kent District Library. “And then pizza with a big cheese stick on the end.”
As soon as Munger heard pizza she immediately walked to the end of the table, pointed at it and asked “Is this pizza?”
“Yup, that's a pizza,” Mish said.
Munger grabbed, got on her bike and rode away with her mom and friend.
Munger was one of the dozens of kids who picked up a meal that was offered at the Book Mobile that morning. Feeding America West Michigan partnered with the Kent District Library to create the Library Lunches To Go which allows kids to pick up a book and a packaged meal.
“This is where all the action happens,” said Mish during an interview inside the Book Mobile. “So this is where we end up being able to get the books to the patrons, the people who are here. We’re checking out a lot of kids' books for them so that after they get their lunch, we’re then feeding their bellies and feeding their mind.”
Feeding America said hunger and food insecurity is an ongoing crisis many kids and families in West Michigan can experience, especially during the summer. When they're not in school they miss out on the two or three meals that they're used to getting every day.
“Kids who are hungry don’t have as good as a time learning. It’s a barrier for them,” said Shay Kovacs, programs manager at Feeding America West Michigan. “They can’t concentrate. They can’t focus. We really want to be a part of helping mitigate that summer slip that we know happens with kids when they’re out of school in the summertime.”
According to the Feeding America, 84 percent of families report that they buy cheaper foods, instead of healthier ones because it’s too expensive.
“It’s really difficult for families too especially during this pandemic because their budgets are constrained. You’ve got kids home all day long and where they used to get maybe breakfast and lunch at school, now they can’t,” Kovacs said. “They have to get those meals at home. You’ve got parents working and if we don’t have to overburden an already struggling family, we can focus on meeting some of their other needs.”
Feeding America and KDL have step up over a dozen others sites at their branches throughout the area.
Kovacs said no proof of income is needed and it's open to kids under age 18, and up to 26 years old for those with developmental disabilities. So, everyone is welcomed to stop by.
“If we can step in and support them during that time and also promote their literacy, it’s the best thing we can do for them,” Kovacs said.