Story Spotlight: Lansing Public School District’s Lansing Student Development Program

Jon Horford (center), founder and coordinator of LPSD’s Lansing Student Development Program, with two students enrolled in the program.

For the 1 in 10 mid-Michigan children experiencing food insecurity, summer break can mean up to 90 days without school meal programs—too often, this means an interruption in the consistent nutrition kids need to grow, play and thrive.

In July and August 2023, Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB) was proud to partner with Cristo Rey Community Center (CRCC) to support Lansing Public School District’s (LPSD) Lansing Student Development Program, which provides free, year-round access to meals, movement and strength training, academic resources and opportunities to connect with community leaders.

Jon Horford, the program’s founder and coordinator, reached out to Michelle Lantz, GLFB’s CEO because the program needed assistance providing nourishing meals to fuel students over the summer.

Michelle reached out to CRCC, one of GLFB’s valued partner agencies — which previously partnered with GLFB in 2021 to help feed 300 new Afghan neighbors following evacuation from their home country — to see if they could once again open their community kitchen for volunteers to prepare and deliver hot meals to kids enrolled in the program.

The CRCC team immediately arranged for meal preparation to begin the following week, and just 48 hours after the call for volunteers was put out, nearly all shifts were full.

For four days a week over four weeks, 35 volunteers worked to prepare 960 hot meals — from ham and potatoes to chicken enchiladas to spaghetti — for nearly 100 children receiving support through the Lansing Student Development Program. In addition to these hot meals, GLFB also sent 400 Weekend Kits — bags of kid-friendly food that are intended to meet the nutritional needs of children during non-school hours ― to close the gap from Friday to Sunday while the program wasn’t in session.

“Yesterday, on the final day of the meals, Devin Maas, a staffer from Cristo Rey, stopped me to thank me for doing this project,” said Michelle. “He told me he used to be one of those Eastern High School kids who went to the enrichment football practices without anything in his stomach because his family was food insecure. He said meals like this would have made a huge difference for him before practices.”

This September, during Hunger Action Month, GLFB is highlighting some of the ways food security leads to a ripple effect of success when neighbors and families aren’t worried about where their next meal is coming from — from succeeding in the classroom to performing on the football field, the full effect of consistent nourishment is undeniable.

And the strength of our community when we all have a seat at the table is undeniable, too.

“Because of his experience going to Cristo Rey as a child, including receiving meals from the community kitchen, Devin now dedicates his life to giving to others to show them there is hope for a better future,” Michelle added. “All because someone else did this for him. [These volunteers] are that ‘someone else’ for children in the enrichment program.”

This Hunger Action Month, find your seat at the table to help neighbors, children and families in need by volunteering with GLFB. Because when neighbors are fed, futures are nourished.

Hunger Action Month is an annual nationwide month of action, hosted by the Feeding America network, to spread awareness and join the movement to end hunger.