IONIA — A program committed to ending childhood hunger in Ionia and Montcalm counties has received a big donation during the COVID-19 pandemic.


IM Kids 3rd Meal received a $1,000 donation as part of the Vita Plus Serving Customers & Rural Communities Project.


The contribution will help IM Kids 3rd Meal purchase dairy products to be included in meals for elementary students, according to a press release.


IM Kids 3rd Meal is a program committed to ending childhood hunger in Ionia and Montcalm counties.


Deborah Wagner, director of grants and special projects at the Ionia County Intermediate School District, said IM Kids 3rd Meal is thankful for the donation.


"We are very appreciative of the donation to IM Kids 3rd Meal from Vita Plus to purchase dairy products for our schools and the families that they are feeding during this challenging time,“ Wagner said.


”It is a massive undertaking for schools to provide daily meals to their students. IM Kids 3rd Meal is happy that we can support schools feeding their students in need of meals through donations like this one."


Headquarterd in Madison, Wisconsin, Vita Plus is an employee-owned livestock feed and nutrition company.


It has committed $100,000 to support rural food security initiatives throughout the upper Midwest.


The project’s purpose is to assist those in rural communities during the COVID-19 pandemic while also supporting dairy, swine and beef producers by purchasing their products as dairy and livestock farms face subsequent market challenges.


Marin Western and Mark Case, Vita Plus dairy consultants, decided to use their portion of the funds to support IM Kids 3rd Meal.


The Ionia County ISD and Montcalm Area Intermediate School District support the program, which serves 11 schools in Ionia and Montcalm counties.


“We have a passion for the dairy industry and want to raise awareness of the struggles dairy farmers face right now, and we want to put nutritious dairy products into the hands of those who need them, especially during this tough time,” Western said.


The contribution to IM Kids 3rd Meal will be used to purchase milk, cheese and yogurt to be included in students’ meals, according to the release.


“Dairy products are high-quality foods jam-packed with a lot of good nutrients,” Case said. “We’re happy we can help provide wholesome foods to kids in our communities.”