Sterling Heights

Student food program hands out 5,000 free meals in one day after Coronavirus shuts down schools

Food-insecure students are some of the hardest hit by the current closure of all Michigan K-12 schools over Coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, but Utica Community Schools (UCS) is providing help, and not just to their own pupils.

UCS is offering free to-go meals at 14 community distribution sites for children and teenagers, and handed out 5648 meals on their first day this week. All children and teens under the age of 18 can receive no-charge meals, regardless of where they go to school or whether they qualify for free or reduced meals.

“We are committed to ensuring that our children receive nutritious and healthy meals during these school closures,” said UCS Superintendent Christine Johns.

“In this spirit of community, I know our residents will continue to rally around each other and our youth, and that we will be stronger for it,” Johns said.

From noon to 1 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, families and children can drive or walk up to the outdoor distribution sites, and collect breakfasts and lunches to take home. Patrons are encouraged to practice social distancing and are being provided with two days’ worth of meals and three day’s worth on Friday. Children do not have to be present for parents to request meals.

Anyone up to the age of 26 who is enrolled in an educational program for the mentally or physically disabled that is recognized by a state or local public educational agency can also take part in this USDA-funded program.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the closure of all Michigan K-12 schools last week after announcing new Michigan cases of COVID-19, and sponsors who participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) are able to distribute meals.

“Schools and sponsors that participate in Unanticipated School Closure SFSP help ensure children do not experience a lapse in food security with schools being closed from March 16, 2020, through April 5, 2020,” the state said in a press release.

The Michigan Department of Education has compiled an interactive map of food sites, and this week requested a series of federal waivers of requirements in child nutrition, emergency food assistance, and commodity food programs.

Meeting the needs of hungry children during the mandated school closure is one of the priorities for the Food Bank Council of Michigan (FBCM) and its regional food banks.

"Our immediate needs are startup funding and volunteers,” said Phil Knight, executive director of FBCM. “Our seven regional food banks are excellent at meeting the daily needs of our residents and families facing food insecurity. The issues surrounding the COVID-19 virus, however, substantially impact our ability to feed nearly a million more children and others during this national pandemic.”

In the Sterling Heights area, meals to-go are available at the main entrance of these public schools from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday:

Burr Elementary, 41460 Ryan, Sterling Heights
Dresden Elementary, 11400 Delvin, Sterling Heights
Harvey Elementary, 41700 Montroy, Sterling Heights
Plumbrook Elementary, 39660 Spalding, Sterling Heights
Roberts Elementary, 2400 Belle View, Shelby Township
Schwarzkoff Elementary, 8401 Constitution, Sterling Heights
West Utica Elementary, 5415 West Utica Rd., Shelby Township
Wiley Elementary, 47240 Shelby Rd., Shelby Township

Meals to-go are available at the rear of the building at these public schools from noon to 1 p.m.:

Jeannette Junior High, 40400 Gulliver, Sterling Heights
Eisenhower High School, 6500 25 Mile Road, Shelby Township
Stevenson High School, 39701 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, distribution begins at 11 a.m.

Meals to-go will be delivered by a UCS food truck to these locations at these listed times:

Rudgate Manor Club House, 5150 Rudgate Circle, Sterling Heights
Outside of clubhouse from 11-11:30 a.m.
Sterling Estates, 43475 La Grand Blvd, Sterling Heights
Outside the clubhouse in picnic area from noon-12:30 p.m.
Autumn Woods, 44401 Bridal Lane, Sterling Heights
Near the main office from 12:40-1:10 p.m.

Read more articles by Kate Roff.

Kate Roff is a freelance writer and editor, currently based out of Detroit. Contact her at
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