More than 2,200 sites to serve free meals to keep children healthy
SPRINGFIELD â€“ As Illinoisans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, and other summer pleasures, the Illinois State Board of Education reminds families that free breakfasts and lunches continue at local schools, parks, and community centers across the state where an expected 4 million free meals will be served through August. The program allows children to continue healthy habits so theyâ€™re ready to learn when the school bells ring this fall.
â€œWeâ€™re pleased to help bring this program to Illinois communities once again,â€ said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. â€œPoverty and hunger does not stop when school doors close for summer vacation so itâ€™s important that we continue to serve those in need.â€
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced that approximately 2,200 sites are expected to serve free breakfast and lunch to children and teens ages 18 and younger across Illinois during summer vacation. At more than half the sites, children and teens will not have to apply or show any proof of family income in order to receive a meal. The State Board administers the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Summer Meals program. Summer feeding sites include schools, places of worship and faith, community facilities and parks.
Governor Pat Quinn promoted the Summer Meals Program last month with a proclamation recognizing the value of continuing good habits through summer break.
â€œNo child should go without food,â€ Gov. Quinn said. â€œWe know that children who continue to follow a nutritious diet are more likely to return to school healthy, happy and ready to learn. I applaud these organizations that are helping us keep hunger at bay during the summer months.â€
Families can search for a nearby site offering free meals at www.summerfeedingillinois.org. ISBE has partnered with Share Our Strength, a national child anti-hunger organization, to address childhood hunger with the Illinois No Kid Hungry campaign.
Like last year, individuals also can text the words â€œFoodILâ€ in English or â€œAlimentosILâ€ in Spanish to 877-877. Upon texting, individuals will be prompted to send a zip code, after which they will receive the address and serving times of the closest summer meals sites.Â Residents can also call the Illinois Hunger Coalitionâ€™s hunger hotline at 800-359-2163
Summer food programs provide free meals and snacks to low-income children through age 18 when schools are on break. Individuals age 18 through 21 who are enrolled in school programs for persons with disabilities and have an IEP on file may also participate. Sites must be located in areas where at least 50 percent of the children are eligible for free and reduced meals from the National School Lunch Program or the familyâ€™s income is 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
During the summer of 2013, more than 106,500 low-income Illinois children a day ate free meals through summer food programs. Those children represent 13.8 percent of the roughly 775,000 children who ate free or reduced-priced meals during the 2012-2013 school year. Nationally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that nearly 3 million children received summer meals on an average day during the summer. The total number of children participating in summer nutrition nationally saw an increase of 161,000 meals or a 5.7 percent from 2012 and the largest increase since 2003. The programs grew to serve 15.1 children for every 100 low-income children who participated in school lunch during the 2012-2013 school year.
â€œThe increased participation is good news, not only for Illinois but for all our communities and struggling families,â€ said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. â€œThe meals provided through the Summer Nutrition Programs are often served during summer programs with educational, enrichment, and recreational activities that keep childrenÂ engaged, active and safe during school vacation. Growing participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs means that more low-income children are also engaged in these beneficial programs.â€