DETROIT — Leveraging its world-class capabilities — from food-distribution expertise to innovations in refrigeration and food preservation — PepsiCo, Gleaners Community Food Bank, the USDA, the Michigan Department of Education, and the United Way of Southeastern Michigan are providing fresh, healthy foods accessible for low-income families in metro Detroit.
Through its Food for Good initiative, PepsiCo expects to deliver more than 5 million healthy servings to low-income kids this year, including more than 120,000 already delivered to children across metro Detroit.
“When the school year ended, most school cafeterias closed for the summer months, yet underserved children still need access to nutritious lunches — that’s where Food for Good plays a vital role in each of the communities we serve,” says Matt Smith, director of the program.
Smith says the struggle with hunger is particularly acute in Detroit, where 190,000 low-income kids struggle during the summer months to gain access to fresh, nutritious food. While the USDA has a comprehensive summer-feeding program, 85 percent of the schoolchildren across the U.S. and in Detroit who are eligible for USDA-sponsored lunches don’t get them.
“During the school year, kids are able to jump on a bus to get to school where they receive lunch,” Smith says. “But during the summer, the food needs to be taken to the kids where they live. And it’s a huge logistical challenge to feed highly perishable food to so many kids dispersed across underserved neighborhoods.”
Leaders from the participating local organizations, as well as Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s office, gathered at a distribution site last week to meet children and discuss opportunities to expand the program in order to serve more kids in the future.
“The partnership with PepsiCo has enabled us to implement a new model of summer meal service in order to reach kids in parks and playfields where they are,” says Rachelle Bonelli, vice president of programs for Gleaners. “They have shared their logistical knowledge and expertise to help develop a new model for summer meal delivery in Detroit and Wayne County.”