Ask a kid what their favorite part of summer is, and you’re likely to get this answer: no school. But, no school means no school lunches, which for some kids in Northern Illinois means no lunch at all.
Tenae, a mother of four from Zion, knows the struggle of providing food during the summer all too well.
“In the summertime, the kids are enjoying themselves and I’m happy they’re happy, but I’m looking at the fridge and the cabinets and thinking, ‘Where is the food going?” Tenae said during a visit to Abiding Love Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen in Zion.
Thanks to Northern Illinois Food Bank’s Summer Meal Program, families struggling to make ends meet like Tenae’s can find a sense of relief. Through the Summer Meal Program, families can get access to breakfast, lunch, and snacks for their children at more than 120 sites across Northern Illinois. The Summer Meal Program is open to all children under the age of 18, though some site-specific requirements or restrictions may apply.
Last summer, the program served more than 285,000 meals to children in need by working with youth programs at parks, churches, schools, and other sites throughout the community. The program is expected to continue growing this year, meaning more kids can enjoy their school-free summer with a full belly to fuel their adventures.
We’re proud to share that in April 2017, the USDA named Northern Illinois Food Bank one of the nation’s top 10 leading Summer Meal Program sponsors with its “Turnip the Beet” award, dedicated to recognizing summer meal programs with the highest quality food. The Food Bank was ranked as one of 10 Gold awardees, and was the only awardee in Illinois.
According to the USDA’s website, awardees demonstrated “excellence in areas such as providing fresh fruit daily; conducting taste tests with the children (and incorporating the feedback into the menus); serving a variety of whole grains and offering nutrition education activities along with the meals.” The Summer Meal Program is offered in partnership with the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program and administered by the Illinois State Board of Education.
If your youth program is interested in becoming a Summer Meal Program site for next year, please contact Jessica Willis: call 630-443-6910 ext. 144 or send an email.