Communities step up to keep people fed during the COVID-19 crisis

DSC_0003Story by Anna Schlutt, Staff Writer
Photos courtesy Anna Schlutt

With COVID-19 on the rise, businesses are shutting down and unemployment is rising. Many people are looking at weeks or months without a paycheck.

For some families this means there won’t be food on the table. Not everyone has the luxury of a savings account or an emergency fund. Fortunately, some individuals and businesses are stepping up to make sure no one goes hungry during this crisis, especially kids.

The YMCA, the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network, and countless school districts are some of the organizations trying to fill the gap between parents’ wallets and their kids’ stomachs.

Most organizations are giving out food several days a week, usually enough to get students by until the next meal pickup.

Grand Rapids Public Schools is serving meals three days a week at several schools in the city. They give out four meals at a time: breakfast and lunch for two days. It’s clear that this service is necessary by how many meals are being served.


A food truck outside of City Middle High School

“We served 300 at this site today alone. Last Wednesday I served over 10,000 meals,” said organizer Jen Laninga.

Parents typically drive up and tell volunteers how many children they need meals for. The volunteers then put meals directly into the car’s trunk to minimize any risk of contamination.

Right now the organization has plenty of food and volunteers, but they might need more help in the future to keep students fed.

“I think as the need increases we’ll need to increase what we’re doing to help them,” Laninga said.

Kelloggsville Public Schools is providing more than just food. Though they serve hundreds of meals a day, volunteers also hand out books and board games to keep kids entertained while they’re stuck in quarantine.

The Kelloggsville pickup location is at Kelloggsville High School, and volunteers are coming directly from that community.


Volunteers at Kellogsville High School

“Mostly administrators and teachers coming in and volunteering their time, trying to get meals to those who need them,” said Kelloggsville vice principal Nick Patin.

The Grand Rapids Mutual Aid Network is focusing more on helping those in need one on one. This organization has developed a network for people to give and take as needed.

Organizers match the services people can provide (like money, grocery delivery, childcare and food) to the services people need. The organization is made of Grand Rapids area community members and focuses on underserved and overlooked communities.

Parents hoping to find meals for their kids can find pickup locations at Those looking to donate to or get help from the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network can find more information on their Facebook page.

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