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Free Summer Meal Programs Launch in Chicago Area – NBC Chicago

As many Chicago-area children head to summer vacation, various groups are stepping up to help provide meals to those in need during the summer months.

The Phillips Park Zoo in Aurora is one of dozens of sites doing just that, with the Northern Illinois Food Bank’s summer food service program handing out breakfasts, lunches and snacks every day of the week.

According to the group’s website, an average of 7,600 children under the age of 18 participated each day in 2023, with more than 285,000 meals served at 112 sites.

“If we weren’t here to make these meals, they wouldn’t have summer meals. Children rely on school meals, and when school is closed, children’s hunger increases, so if we weren’t there to distribute these meals, they probably wouldn’t be eating lunch today,” Jen said Lamplough, impact manager.

According to the group, meals include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and meet USDA meal guidelines.

The program is funded by the Department of Agriculture and administered by the Illinois State Board of Education.

“These are tailor-made meals for children. They’re easy, they’re fun, they’re delicious. This is a great way to provide meals for children. It’s a great way to feed them. Otherwise, they would either eat at home or wait until dinner time,” Lamplough said.

Various parks, churches and schools participate in the program, depending on the group. No registration or ID is required for the program, which runs through August 16. Those interested in participating can text the word “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 304304 for more information. or visit the Food Bank website.

Several other groups also offer free meals to students, including the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which participates in a Rise & Shine Illinois Summer Meals program. More information on eligibility and additional resources can be found on the group’s website.

Finally, Chicago Public Schools will offer free meals to students throughout the summer months through a variety of programs. While some sites are lunch-only, others offer breakfasts and lunches, according to the CPS website.

NBC Chicago

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