PINCKNEY, MI -- Summer Lunch Bunch participant Erica Johnson of Pinckney said budgeting for groceries during the summer, when the kids are home from school, is more difficult than during the school year.
"This helps a little bit. You get a free meal. They give a bag of groceries to each person and they give you recipes," Johnson said.
"For low-income families, (Summer Lunch Bunch) provides a lunch every week and activities for the kids, like a craft or games," she said.
The recent gathering at Stone Coop Farm in Green Oak Township was the first-ever field trip for people who attend Summer Lunch Bunch community lunches at various locations across the county.
Johnson was especially excited to visit a local organic farm with her 14-year-old son, Nick, because "we usually buy just from grocery stores and whenever it says organic on it, the price is always raised up quite a bit. So, I don't usually go for that," she said.
The Summer Lunch Bunch program is a Livingston County Hunger Council initiative to provide kids with meals during the summer, when free and reduced price school lunches are not available.
The Salvation Army of Livingston County administers the program by holding the community lunches at various locations across the county for two months each summer.
"The Hunger Council has been talking a lot about sustainable agriculture and learning to grow your own food," said Liz Welch, seasonal program coordinator for the Salvation Army of Livingston County.
"What could be better than taking kids out on a field trip to a farm," Welch said.
Over 40 kids and parents gathered at the farm Monday, where they ate a balanced meal, took tours of the farm and played games.
Kids planted radish seeds in little planters made of newspaper and plastic bags, which they took home with them to transplant and watch grow.
At the end, families could take home some fresh squash, zucchini and kale as well as a few recipes.
Leah Muega of Howell attended the field trip to Stone Coop Farm with kids Kyra, 2, and Isaiah, 4.
"I'm trying to raise them on healthier, fresh produce, and a lot of things that get donated (to pantries) are boxed or canned and they won't eat it," Muega said.
She liked the fresh vegetables they got at Stone Coop Farm. Muega also joked that her kids might have been the only ones who liked the kale chips — they took a recipe home.
"We also come for the socialization. Being home all summer with the kids, it's nice to get out," said Muega, who was there with a friend of hers on a play date.
Corrie Turner of Pinckney, who was there with husband Andy and childen Maya, 6, and Owen, 8, attends a Summer Lunch Bunch held at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Hamburg Township every week.
"I go for the food pantry packs and for something for the kids to do every week that was fun," Turner said. "It definitely saves us (on groceries) during the summer. It's very helpful."
Summer Lunch Bunch gatherings will take place through Aug. 14. To attend, people need to register in advance.
On Mondays, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamburg and 2/42 Community Church in Genoa Township host the lunches.
Venture Church in Hartland Township does them Tuesdays.
On Wednesdays, people meet at St. Agnes Church in Fowlerville.
Challenger Elementary in Howell is another gathering place, where registration is not required. The Summer Lunch Bunch meets there Mondays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Kids get a meal for free and adults are asked to contribute a $3.50 cash donation.