Lansing Student Development Program provides free food for youth

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The Lansing Student Development Program provides food for youth in the Lansing district every week and will continue its program in the summer. In 2023, more than 12.5 million pounds of food were distributed — that’s 10.5 million meals nourishing people in the community. 

“They always bring fruit options when they bring the meals,” said Jon Horford, founder of the Lansing Student Development Program. “They’ll bring assorted fruit, […] and then like today’s Taco Tuesday, so they’re going to be bringing taco stuff, they’ll bring in ground beef, tortillas, cheese, lettuce, tomato. Yeah, I mean, it’s good. The kids like the food a lot. The food options are healthy, and you know, it’s not a ton of processed food.”

The LSDP has partnered with the Lansing Food Bank, which brings food to the schools every Monday through Friday after school hours. They also make Weekend Kits for students to take home. The distribution of these kits increased 22 % between 2022 and 2023, with 100,861 kits distributed in 2023.

Volunteers picked up Weekend Kits from Lansing Food Bank and distributed them to Lansing schools. Photos Bella Short

“What we were really going for, too, when we were putting together the menus for this, was one of the kids saying something about it being like going to a restaurant like it’s a restaurant-quality meal, and we really wanted it to be home-feeling, home-cooked,” said Michelle Lantz, CEO of Lansing Food Bank. 

Besides providing snacks and meals daily during the week, the program also offers activities for students after school. These activities are specific to academics, wellness, and athletics, allowing students to play sports like basketball, football, track and field, soccer, volleyball, and even Esports. 

“My favorite part, even in our short time, is just being able to witness the growth that a lot of the kids are having,” said Lansing Student Development Program Supervisor Cameron Collins. “What is undeniable is the growth that they have with their own life skills. The kids who have been coming for a long time are just more respectful; they know how to handle themselves in certain situations a little bit better.”

According to the USDA’s household food security report released in October 2023, 13 million children (1 in 5) across the U.S. were living in food-insecure households in 2022. This program ensures that young kids not only go home with a full belly but also have the resources they need to be successful in life. 

“As a child, you don’t realize what’s happening or why it’s happening, and it’s not your fault,” Lantz said. “So children can’t learn, they’re just not going to be able to learn, they’re not going to be able to grow, they’re not going to be able to become, you know, the adults that we would hope for them to be. So our goal as a food bank is always to make sure every single person has food.”

Storage unit inside the Lansing Food Bank.

The Lansing Food Bank delivers food to their seven-county area, from Clinton to Clair County. They are looking to expand their services with the Weekend Kits because a stigma goes along with receiving free food. They are working on breaking down those barriers so no child goes hungry. 

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