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Summer Meals kick off seeks to reach more children

Mon, Jun 30, 2014

More than 2,000 children and 400 parents gathered June 16 at Armour Square Park, 3309 S. Shields Ave., to officially kick off Chicago’s Free Summer Meals program and to raise awareness of its availability.

1 in 5 children in Cook County are at risk of hunger. During the school year, many of them receive two meals per day from the free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch programs. But when summer begins, many families don’t know where to turn. The Free Summer Meals program is designed to fill the gap.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered locally by the Illinois State Board of Education.

“Children need healthy meals year round to reach their full potential,” said USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe. “USDA’s summer feeding programs help children get the nourishing food they need so they come back to school in the fall ready to learn.”

At the launch event, families received information about nearby summer meal sites, and children enjoyed lunch and various sports and games. Adult meals were also served through a donation from No Kid Hungry.

Chicago work group partners, including Catholic Charities, the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, the Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois Hunger Coalition and the Greater Chicago Food Depository were on hand to help raise awareness for summer meal programs and locations.

Last July, 106,818 low-income children in the state received summer meals on an average day, up 12.5 percent from the previous summer, according to the Illinois Hunger Coalition. Still, only 13.8 out of every 100 low-income students who received regular school-year meals accessed the program, compared to a national average of 15.1. USDA has chosen Illinois as one of six states to receive technical assistance to raise the number of summer meal participants.

Several tools are available to help families find free summer meals:
• Visit summermealsillinois.org to search by address
• Text FOODIL to 877877 on 
your mobile phone
• Envia ALIMENTOSIL a 877877 
comidas de verano gratis
• Call 1-800-359-2163
• Download the “Range” mobile 
app for Apple, Google and Windows devices

For more information about the Free 
Summer Meals program, visit summerfeedingillinois.org.

Suzanne Hanney
From Prepared Materials


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