Lt. Governor Sheila Simon visits Murphysboro kitchen to spread the word about free summer lunches for kids

MURPHYSBORO – Saying no child should go hungry, Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon visited a new site in Murphysboro on Monday that provides free lunches to kids over the summer months. The Illinois Coalition for Community Services administers sites throughout the state that serve up free, hot meals to anybody under the age of 18 during the summer months, when families can’t rely on free or reduced price school lunches.

“School is out, but hunger doesn’t take a vacation,” Simon said. “With more of these Summer Food Programs available than ever before in Illinois, we want to let kids know that there’s a hot meal and a safe place to play during the summer.”

After the meals, staff members provide educational and recreational activities for kids. Guests in the past have included local fire departments and Sheriff’s officers, nutrition experts, or just people who can help kids get a game of chess or pick-up basketball started.

The program is funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The number of available meal providers has expanded greatly over the past few years in response to a dramatic increase in need. The program had 12 sites statewide in 2011 and will be operating 52 this summer, said Garret Selinger, ICCS project director. Eighteen of those kitchens are opening for the first time in 2014.

The new Murphysboro site is operated by a local group, Supporting People In Need, a not-for-profit organization that provides disaster relief and aid to the needy. The Murphysboro kitchen serves lunch from 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, with activities until 2 p.m.

Some other Summer Food Program sites this summer include Beardstown, Cairo, Carrier Mills, Carthage, Collinsville, Cuba, Elizabethtown, Girard, Havana, Hillsboro, Jacksonville, Jerseyville, Kankakee, Metropolis, Olive Branch, Peoria, Princeton, Riverton, Sandoval, Shawneetown, Springfield, Taylorville and Weldon.

For information on other Summer Food Program kitchens throughout the state, contact the Illinois Coalition for Community Services at 217-522-2378.