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Summer Food Sites Ready to Welcome Illinois Kids

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Summer meal sites help fill the gap for children in need of food when school isn't in session, and the pandemic won't change that this summer in Illinois. (Adobe Stock)
Summer meal sites help fill the gap for children in need of food when school isn't in session, and the pandemic won't change that this summer in Illinois. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman - Producer, Contact
May 29, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - As the school year comes to a close in Illinois, the Summer Food Service Program is gearing up to ensure children don't go hungry - while meeting the guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The annual program provides free meals and snacks to kids age 18 and younger at hundreds of sites throughout Illinois. About half of children in Illinois qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school.

And as Jackie Matthews, director of external communications with the Illinois State Board of Education explains, hunger doesn't take a vacation.

"The COVID-19 crisis has turned families' lives upside down in so many different ways," says Matthews. "And we want to make sure that one thing families are not worried about is where their children are going to get their next meal."

Summer meal sites can be located by texting "FoodIL" to 877-877, or visiting the website 'summermealsillinois.org.' Matthews notes that most sites do not have family income requirements in order for children to receive a meal.

Under the governor's Restore Illinois Plan, there are different phases of safety protocols for different regions of the state. ISBE is using USDA waivers to allow meals to continue to be served in socially-distanced settings.

And Matthews notes that districts are using creative ways to get food to kids.

"Delivery programs using school buses to actually bring meals to families, or to bring them to different pick-up spots, that can be really helpful in rural areas," says Matthews. "They can allow families to pick up five meals at one time, instead of having to come back every day and potentially not be socially distant."

With the economic downturn, Matthews says more families may be in need now than ever before, and she encourages community organizations and schools not already involved in the Summer Food Service Program to learn more about becoming a sponsor.

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