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Detroit to increase meals sites for students, filling gap left when the district scaled back

School staff pack up meals as part of a massive effort to feed families during Michigan's statewide school shut down. Photo Credit: Eleanore Catolico/Chalkbeat
School staff pack up meals as part of a massive effort to feed families during Michigan's statewide school shut down. Photo Credit: Eleanore Catolico/Chalkbeat

The city of Detroit, which is experiencing a surge in residents testing positive for the new coronavirus, is expanding the number of recreation centers serving breakfast and lunch to children during the school shutdown.

The expansion will help fill a gap left after the city school district cut back its sites due to health concerns raised by employees.

The city was already providing meals daily at four locations. Two more will now hand out meals on the days the district isn’t distributing meals. All sites will provide Detroit families with meals on Fridays that can last through the weekend.

The free meals are crucial in a city with high child poverty rates, and where many students rely on school for breakfast and lunch. In the Detroit Public Schools Community District alone, 86% of students qualify for subsidized meals. The rates are similar for charter schools in the city.

“We’re going to make sure that our children have breakfasts and lunches everyday throughout the time of this crisis,” Mayor Mike Duggan said during a press conference.

On Monday, the district announced it will cut back its meal sites, from 58 to 17, and distribute meals on Mondays and Thursdays, instead of daily. Though the district reduced the number of days, more food is distributed during the two remaining days that can be spread out for the week, district officials said this week.

Two weeks ago, the city had no coronavirus cases. By Thursday afternoon, the number was 868. There have been 15 deaths in the city. Bridge Magazine reported Wednesday that coronavirus is spreading faster in the city than nearly anywhere else in the United States.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered all schools in the state to shut down until April 13. She’s also ordered Michigan residents to stay home unless they work in essential roles.

Duggan said he expects the city to hand out 40,000 meals next week. Like the district operation, families can drive into the parking lot of the locations, tell employees how many children under the age of 18 live in their home, pop their trunk and have the food placed there (or their back seat if the trunk isn’t working).

“We don’t want you to get out of your car,” Duggan said.

Chalkbeat has put together an interactive map showing locations across the city where families can pick up meals. You can find it here.

Here is a list of the city recreation centers providing meals:

These sites provide meals daily, from 8:30 a.m. -1:30 p.m.

  • Adams Butzel Family Center, 10500 Lyndon
  • Farwell Recreation Center, 2711 Outer Dr E.
  • Kemeny Recreation Center, 2260 S. Fort St.
  • Patton Recreation Center, 2301 Woodmere (starting March 30)

These additional recreation centers will provide meals from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

  • Crowell Recreation Center, 16630 Lahser
  • Lasky Recreation Center, 13200 Fenelon

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