Summer Meals program kicks off throughout state
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, also known as Summer Meals, is kicking off at more than 1,500 sites across Illinois, with sponsors continuing to open additional sites.
The Illinois State Board of Education, ISBE, administers the Summer Meals program to provide free and nutritious meals and snacks to children during the summer months in between the school years.
Last year, Summer Meals sites served over 5.4 million meals.
ISBE partner organizations No Kid Hungry and the Illinois Hunger Coalition offer a calling and texting hotline to refer families to their nearest meal sites.
Interested families can call 800-359-2163, text “FoodIL” or “ComidasIL” to 877-877, or visit SummerMealsIllinois.org.
Days and times of operation vary by site. Summer Meals serves children and teens age 18 and younger.
“Summer Meals helps to bridge the gap for children who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the year,” Illinois State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith said in a news release.
“ISBE deeply appreciates the Summer Meals sites and sponsors who bring the program to life in hundreds of communities across the state.
“Research shows that students with access to healthy meals perform better in school. ISBE is proud to administer the Summer Meals program and to continue investing in students’ health, which is critical to learning.”
Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti has partnered with Summer Meals to raise awareness of the need for more program sponsors.
Since taking office, Sanguinetti has advocated for programs that fight food insecurity, childhood hunger, and the lack of healthy food options in certain communities.
“As someone who grew up in poverty, I know firsthand the helplessness a child feels when they are unsure of where their next meal will come,” Sanguinetti said.
“This is an unfortunate reality for far too many children in Illinois. I strongly encourage school districts, local leaders, and nonprofit organizations to join the Summer Meals program and partner with me to ensure no child goes hungry this summer.”
For every 100 children who receive meals through the National School Lunch Programs, only 14 received meals over the summer. Although 172 SFSP sponsors and 135 Seamless Summer Option sponsors administered over 2,200 meal sites in 2016, Illinois’ children need many more sponsors to provide access to healthy food in every county in the state.
At the end of 2016, Illinois had 35 counties with no SFSP sponsors or meal sites.
Organizations can learn more about becoming a Summer Meals sponsor at www.isbe.net/sfsp.
Research shows that healthy students are better learners.
Healthy students achieve higher on all levels of academic performance, including grades, attendance, and cognitive skills and attitudes.
The Summer Meals program helps to keep students healthy while school is not in session, so they return to the classroom ready to learn in the fall.