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Volunteers keep Livonia summer school students fed

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Livonia — With school not being high on the list of places students want to be during the summer, it can be tough to focus on studies when hunger pains set in.

To keep Livonia summer school students full and ready to learn during the five-week session, Forgotten Harvest and Livonia Goodfellows are teaming up with Churchill High School to supply more than 200 free lunches each class day.

“I have seen a big improvement in our students since last year,” said Kevin Reina, summer school leader at Churchill High School. “There have been less outbursts and interruptions. When kids are not hungry, they can concentrate more on the lesson.”

The two charities volunteered to supply lunches to summer school students from three Livonia high schools — Churchill, Franklin and Stevenson — to pay the schools back for conducting a holiday food drive. During the past school year, students at the three schools collected more than 45,000 canned goods to distribute to families in need at Christmastime.

“We get a lot of support from all three schools and we thought it would be a good idea to be able to give the kids a free lunch,” said Bill Heaton, president of the Livonia Goodfellows. “It’s one less thing they have to worry about.”

Monday through Thursday, Goodfellows volunteers pack lunches to give out during the 15-minute lunch break. Each lunch contains a sandwich on multigrain bread with turkey, salami or bologna, a piece of fruit, a juice and a cookie. Additional lunches are made available to students after the school day.

“Some of the time, students will come to school and this might be the only meal they will have for the day,” said Reina, who teaches science at Franklin High School. “After school, a student may ask to take one home to a sibling or if they can have an extra one for later. I’m glad to know the students are taking advantage of this.”

Amber Hoffman 17, left, and Cameron Robins 16, summer school students at Churchill High School, enjoy free bag lunches.

Last year in Michigan, 4 million households lived at risk of hunger, with nearly 200,000 children living in poverty, according to Feeding America’s National Hunger study.

Some students are excited about the addition of a free lunch during summer school.

“I think this is a really good thing they are doing. It’s very nice,” said Amber Hoffman, 17, who will be a senior in the fall at Churchill. This is really helping me out, since I don’t have to spend money on food.”

In the past, summer school students relied on vending machines and organizations selling pizza for fundraisers, but Goodfellows volunteers hope the free lunch program can be implemented every summer.

“We were going into the unknown. We didn’t how receptive the students would be, but so far, it has been very successful,” said Jim Hobart, team lead volunteer for the Livonia Goodfellows free lunch program.

Cameron Robins, 16, a sophomore at Franklin High School, benefits from the leftover lunches.

“I enjoy it. I usually take two lunches because the food is really good,” Cameron said.

ksmith3@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-1855

How to help

■Livonia Goodfellows, P.O. Box 51982, Livonia, MI 48151, (313) 438-0862, http://www.livoniagoodfellows.org/

■ Forgotten Harvest, 21800 Greenfield Road, Oak Park, MI 48237, (248) 967-1500, http://www.forgottenharvest.org/