January , 2019

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Programs ensure low-income students are well fed when school is out

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The thermometer might suggest otherwise, but summer is on its way and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) wants to make sure every child enjoys access to nutritious meals during the summer break. School districts, local government entities and nonprofit organizations are eligible to host children for free healthy meals and snacks as a summer food site sponsor and/or site.

“Good nutrition helps children remain active and engaged both inside and outside of the classroom,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “These programs strive to keep children healthy by assisting low-income families who may have difficulty fulfilling their children’s nutritional needs year-round. The Board urges school administrators to make sure their students take advantage of these crucial programs to help fill the nutritional gap between the last and first day of school.”

Participation in summer meal programs is increasing but still falls short of the meals served during the school year. During the summer of 2013, Illinois program sites served meals to nearly 107,000 children, or 14 percent of the almost 775,000 children who ate free or reduced-priced meals during the 2012-13 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 children, or 5.7 percent, from 2012; that was the largest percentage increase since 2003.  However, only 15 out of every 100 eligible children in 2013 received a meal in the summertime.

“Poor nutrition during the summer months can affect children’s academic performance during the school year,” said Tim English, Midwest regional administrator for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. “The USDA’s summer feeding programs help children get the nourishing food they need all year long so they come back to school in the fall ready to learn.”

The Summer Food Service Program provides 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 Individualized Education Program (IEP) on file may also participate. Summer food programs typically operate when schools close for summer during June, July and August, but can start as early as May and may go into September. Sites must be located in areas where at least 50 percent of the children are eligible for free and reduced-price meals from the National School Lunch Program or the family’s income is 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

ISBE administers the USDA’s ”Summer Food Service Program” (also known as ”Summer Meals”). School districts, local governments and nonprofits can all sponsor summer food sites, housing the sites at schools, parks, recreation centers, housing projects, migrant centers, churches, summer camps and other locations.

Most summer food program sites open doors to all children in the community without any enrollment or entrance requirements. Other sites only serve meals to those children enrolled in a specific summer program. About 1,700 summer food service program sites offered free meals last summer through more than 160 Illinois sponsors.

“The Summer Food Service Program ensured our youth had a healthy breakfast and lunch every day, which provided them with the energy and nourishment they needed to work in our summer employment program,” said Amanda McMillen, Casa Central deputy director of Children and Youth Services in Chicago. “Most youth showed up having eaten no breakfast and had no idea what they would have that evening, but while they were in our program, they did not have to worry about food, ever.”

Training is required to participate as a sponsor. Upcoming sponsor workshop dates and cities are listed below. All workshops begin at 8:30 a.m. To register for the workshops, please visit: www.isbe.net/nutrition/htmls/sfsp_training.htm.

Date Location Address
March 4 The Pavilion 1602 Sioux Dr.


March 18-19 DoubleTree 5000 W. 127th St.


April 2 Four Points Sheraton 319 Fountains Pkwy. Fairview Heights
April 14 Hilton Garden Inn Midway 6530 S. Cicero Ave.

Bedford Park

*April 15 Hilton Garden Inn Midway 6530 S. Cicero

Bedford Park

April 16 Illinois Central College- North Campus 5407 University St.


Arbor Hall- Room A112

May 6 Wyndham Garden Hotel 1725 E. Algonquin Rd.


May 13 Springfield IEA Professional Development Center 3440 Liberty Dr.


*May 14 Springfield IEA Professional Development Center 3440 Liberty Dr.


*For current sponsors only

Institutions may also participate as a meal site through an existing or a new sponsor.

School administrators are encouraged to help sponsors to educate students, their families and the community about available programs in their area.

For information on becoming a sponsor or meal site, call the Summer Meals program at (800) 545-7892. To find a summer meals site close to you, contact the Illinois Hunger Coalition’s Hunger Hotline at (800) 359-2163 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hotline is available in both English and Spanish. Summer meal sites can also be found by texting FoodIL to 877877 or visit SummerMealsIllinois.org.

For the latest news from the Illinois State Board of Education, follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Illinois-State-Board-of-Education/136022251779 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/ISBEnews. Visit the official ISBE website at http://www.isbe.net.

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