Summer Food Programs In Illinois Provide Meals To Children When School’s Out
Programs that provide free meals to children throughout the summer are kicking off all across Illinois.
The state's more than a thousand summer meal sites are federally funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered through the Illinois State Board of Education to ensure children have access to healthy meals when school is out of session.
Some programs are limited to children who are signed up for specific summer programs, while others are open to any child 18 and under, with no income or legal status requirements.
Brandon Meline, director of maternal and child health at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said summer food programs are essential for preventing children from food-insecure households from going hungry.
“If you have multiple children families that are coming home (from school), now you’re looking to add two meals per day into your household budget—that’s really a strain on an individual household’s budget and really a challenge for people to make ends meet,” Meline said.
Since many counties in central and southern Illinois have higher-than-average rates of food insecurity, Meline said these programs are essential in those parts of the state--and he’s concerned about the 33 counties in Illinois that don’t have a single summer food program.
“Food-insecure households have food-insecure children,” he said. “It’s really daunting to think about how those kids may be going hungry over the summer.”
Meline said the most common barrier for children in need of summer meals is transportation. For that reason, his agency is sending out a mobile unit to different neighborhoods in Champaign-Urbana and working to provide free meals to summer programs that target at-risk children.
Meline said CUPHD hopes to expand those services and the increase the number of sites throughout east-central Illinois in future years.
CUPHD will provide breakfast and lunch in its lobby located at 201 W. Kenyon Road in Champaign. The program started last Thursday and will continue through mid-August.
Mobile site visits will occur on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 pm, beginning June 11, at Crestview Park in Urbana; and on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., beginning June 13, at Victory Park in Urbana. On Fridays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sola Gratia will hold a pay-what-you-can market outside Dollar Tree in Urbana.
To find a list of all summer food programs across Illinois, visit www.summermealsillinois.org—or text FoodIL to 877-877 to receive information via text about food programs in certain zip codes.
For more information on the CUPHD summer meals program and other available services, visit www.c-uphd.org.
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