Summer meal program kicks off as COVID-19 increases demand

Posted at 7:03 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 20:03:06-04

MILWAUKEE — As unemployment numbers rise throughout the country and kids get out of school, many families are left without the food security they once had. Here in Milwaukee, there are alternative resources out there, including one spot that opened Monday morning.

The need for food assistance is that much more important with families struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. At the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park, you can pick up free meals all summer long.

One by one, families stopped by the park to grab bags filled with food.

Rachel Leach came with her sister, nieces and nephews.

This spring even as the kids learned from home, they still got their meals from school.

“We still went up there, got the lunches for the kids to make sure that they got fed and it's not much of a hefty bill on us to feed them,” Leach said.

However, last week when school ended, the meals did too.

On top of that, Leach only recently went back to work after getting laid off because of COVID-19.

When she learned the summer meal program was kicking off, she made sure to be there the first day.

“It helps, big time,” Leach said.

The Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park is one of several locations across Milwaukee offering free meals, and there are no qualifications.

Manager Terry Evans said he's seen the demand increase over time.

“As we go further into this pandemic, it continues to grow, especially within the Northside community,” Evans said.

In fact, according to a study from Feeding America, Milwaukee County's food insecurity rate is projected to rise from less than 13 percent in 2018 to nearly 18 percent this year.

While the situation can be frustrating, Leach appreciates that there are resources out there.

“We have to do what we have to do, make ends meet,” Leach said.

The program runs through August 28. It runs Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and is a partnership with the Hunger Task Force and Center for Independence.

To find free meal sites in your area you can call 2-1-1 or click here.

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