PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) -- Hundreds of thousands of Michigan children get free or reduced-cost lunches during the school year, but only a small fraction of those eligible get them in the summer.
The Michigan Department of Education took over the summer meal program in 2004, and its outreach efforts have added about 200 sites for a total of about 960. Even so, only about 15 percent of the 460,000 children who are eligible take advantage of it, the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday.
"The good news is there are programs available. The bad news is we don't have universal coverage at this point," said Jerry Sedick, associate director for family and community services at the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency.
The agency hosts 31 sites, including Murphy Park Day Camp in Pontiac.
At Murphy Park, children line up to wash hands before lining up again to pick up their lunches.
"Most people can't afford this stuff," said Kiwanna McClellan, 11, who was eating a meal that included a hamburger, Tater Tots and cubed peaches at the Murphy Park program.
Martin Ackley, spokesman for the Education Department, said Michigan has worked with several anti-hunger advocates to promote the summer lunch program.
The program "is a great way to reach those kids who don't have the school lunch program to take advantage of" during the summer, said John Kastler, vice president of Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan. The agency hosts five sites in Oakland County and seven in Wayne County.
Sedick said most of his agency's sites are run by community agencies or groups and are located in schools, parks, apartment complexes and other locations.
Many are run by summer camps and require children to be enrolled to receive a free lunch. Others are open sites, allowing students to come just for the free lunch.
Andre Dixon, 10, said he likes to come to Murphy Park Camp for basketball and tag. But he said it's good for children who may not get a meal at home.
"It's very important ... so we won't be starving, so we have something to eat," Andre said.