For many kids, summer means it’s time for weeks on end of fun in the sun: swimming, popsicles, playing outside, and more. But for others, there’s a less sunny side to summer break.
When the school year ends, so does access to nutritious meals for many children in our community who participate in the free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs at their schools. Thousands of children in the 13 counties served by Northern Illinois Food Bank qualify for free or reduced meals. During the summer, their families must make up for these meals to nourish their children’s growing bodies, which means putting additional strain on their budgets.
Thankfully, the Food Bank’s Summer Meal Program is here to help! The Summer Meal Program is offered in partnership with the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and is administered by the Illinois State Board of Education. Last year alone, the program served more than 265,000 summer meals to children in need by working with more than 130 summer youth programs at parks, churches, schools, libraries and other sites throughout the community.
Meals on the Move is one such program in Kane County, where the Food Bank’s van visits five different parks every day to offer nutritious (and free!) meals to children ages 18 and younger in Aurora. Through this program, kids can enjoy a care-free lunch in the park with healthy, balanced meals in their bellies. And at one park site, the Meals on the Move van is also joined by the Fox Valley Park District’s Neighborhood Art Program and Aurora Public Library’s Bookmobile & Stories in the Park Program, bringing books and activities together with delicious food!
Addison Public Library is another SFSP site, and just one of many libraries offering a free lunch program this summer. Brooke, a volunteer who is the team lead for the library’s Share Table – where kids can bring unopened items from their boxed lunches to share with others – says she loves volunteering every day. In fact, she’s been a volunteer for about five years now.
“It’s cool to give back to the community,” she says. “Lots of people rely on free lunches during the school year, so [now] they can rely on this, because maybe they [wouldn’t] be getting lunch otherwise.”
Alison, a mother of three kids under the age of 10, knows this firsthand. She shared that two of her children get free lunch during the school year, but it’s definitely harder in the summer to feed everyone.
“Our family really appreciates [this],” she says.
We’re dedicated to providing every meal, every day for kids like Alison’s, and for all of our school-aged neighbors who are at increased risk of hunger during the summer. To help support these kids and their families, please consider making a donation. To find a summer meal site near you, visit our Summer Meal Program page.
Meals on the Move is generously supported by the Dunham Fund.
(1)“Fighting Food Waste With Food Rescue.” Feeding America
(2)“Food Waste FAQs.” USDA.