David Jesse's recent article at annarbor.com about a Mitchell Elementary School program to provide weekend "food backpacks," made me think it is time to say something more about food, and health.
Different schools and school districts have different feelings about how much they should help provide a safety net for students. Some schools have stepped up to the plate--for instance, Bryant/Pattengill in Ann Arbor runs a clothes closet, and the Ypsilanti Public Schools run one for the whole district. Other schools have been reluctant to jump into providing services, because the need is so great, and they don't want to be seen as a giant social service agency.
On the other hand--kids who are hungry, cold, or sick don't do very well in school. I think that those schools that try to support students' other needs are doing the right things. But remember, knowledge is power, and a lot of people who are eligible for programs don't know they are eligible. So here are a few resources. Please share them!
1. Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program (which includes breakfast): you can register for this at any time during the school year. If, for instance, you had work at the beginning of the year and wouldn't qualify, you might find that you qualify now. Ask for an application at the front office of the school your child attends. Some schools use this as a way to identify kids who qualify for other benefits/scholarships. (I've written about school lunch here.)
2. The Food Stamp application is now online. This is new, and it is great news. Spread the word. A lot of people are surprised to find out that they qualify. If you want an estimate as to whether your family will qualify, here is the link to a food stamp calculator. And here is the link to the application.
3. Similarly, you can now enroll your kids in the MIChild/Healthy Kids program with an online application. (Women 19-44 can be enrolled in the Plan First family planning program through the same application.)
4. The Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools has clinics in several local schools, including schools in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Willow Run. Check them out here.
5. Pregnant women and kids up to age 5 can be served by WIC (Women, Infants, and Children)--and that can help stretch the overall food budget. WIC also has some satellite clinics, which is helpful for people living on the edges of the county.