Starfish Family Services, a Wayne County-based behavioral health nonprofit, makes 300,000 meals annually for children in their programs, preparing breakfast, lunch and a snack for 719 kids for most weeks of the year.
It’s a Herculean task for head chef Shaune Fairley and his two assistants, who cook the meals every morning at headquarters in Inkster for transport to centers around Southeast Michigan. They do so 41 weeks of the year.
If that’s not challenging enough, they work from 60 different menus to accommodate children’s food allergies, and religious or cultural food restrictions.
“We have 86 (different food) allergies, diabetics, gluten-free, religious beliefs, lactose, citrus, every kid has a different allergy,” said Fairley, noting that each specially prepared meal is delivered in its own separate package.
The food is critically important for some of the region’s tiniest residents, said Cynthia Bonk-Foley, food services manager at Starfish.
The homemade meals are prepared with fresh ingredients for infants, toddlers and preschoolers at 18 Starfish centers across Inkster, Detroit, Plymouth, Livonia and Dearborn Heights.
“We do it because we do believe food powers the mind. You can’t learn anything unless you’re fed and happy,” Bonk-Foley said, adding that conversations at mealtime are a big part of the learning experience.
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