Healthy Children - June 2018

Summer Meals: Closing the Gap

Summer can be the hungriest time of the year for kids and the most expensive time for parents. Kids and parent who rely on free or reduced – priced meals through NSLP no longer have access to these meals when school is out for the summer. To help close this gap, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), also known as the Summer Meals Program serves free meals to kids 18 and under during the summer months, helping families make their food budgets work.

The Summer Meals Program is funded by the USDA and administered by ISBE. This program continues to be severely underutilized by many families and kids. Barriers like transportation, unsafe streets, distance, and lack of awareness stop many from accessing the program and getting the food they need.

Innovative strategies and leveraging partnerships can increase awareness and participation in the Summer Meals Program. Additionally, there are opportunities to update the federal policy that governs the program to support and strengthen existing summer meals sites through policies that make it easier for states to reach low-income children.

-Lt. Governor’s Challenge Aimed to Increase Summer Meals

“Child hunger has no summer break. This is why the Summer Meals program is so important. We must ensure children have access to nutritious and reliable meals all summer long.”  Lt. Governor Sanguinetti

As part of the 2017 National School Breakfast Week (NSBW), Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti issued a state-wide challenge to increase the number of summer mea sites. The challenge helped to decrease the number of countries having zero Summer Meal sites from 35 in 2016 to 27 in 2017.

-Spotlight: A Mobile Response to Summer Meals:

Summer means kids no longer have access to free or reduced – price school meals, which can put a strain on food budgets for many families. This is where the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Lunch Bus filled in.

Every day, Darius ran to the Lunch Bus and waited at the park before distribution started. His mom, Karon Shelton, said some days he woke up at 7 a.m. asking to go down to the park. “He would say, “Let me go see my friend down there’ and I said, ‘Who?’ He would yell, ‘The Lunch Bus, the Lunch Bus,” Karon said. Darius, who lives just up the street from Downey Park in south suburban Calumet City is just one of the kids who received a summer meals from the Lunch Bus last summer.

The mobile summer meal program traveled to 24 sites on four different routes: the north city, south city, south suburbs and west suburbs. Each bus made six stops a day at a variety of places including libraries and parks.

The Lunch Bus sites serve approximately 4,000 meals every week during the summer months. All meals included a sandwich, a side of fruit, a side of vegetables and a carton of milk.

Jill Koontz and her daughters went to the Lansing Library Lunch Bus stop every day. Jill said the Lunch Bus was “hugely helpful” because the summer can be tough for her family.