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Thousands of IL Kids Lack Summer Meals

New numbers show Illinois lags behind most of the country in providing free or reduced cost summer meals for children from lower-income families. (Illinois State Board of Education)
New numbers show Illinois lags behind most of the country in providing free or reduced cost summer meals for children from lower-income families. (Illinois State Board of Education)
June 20, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – About a third of all children in Illinois don't know where their next meal is coming from, and a new report says very few low-income children will be getting the food they need during the summer.

The report, "Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation," says last year, only 1 in 7 low-income Illinois children had access to free or low-cost summer meals.

While that's 5 percent more than the year before, Katie Klus, child nutrition coordinator for the Illinois Hunger Coalition, says the state could be helping an extra 200,000 families get their children to summer meal programs.

"Summer meals are so important to particularly low-income children during the summer, because during the school year they can have access to healthy food through the National School Lunch Program,” she explains. “But in the summer, they don't necessarily have access to that."

The report says Illinois's summer food programs are only serving about 14 children for every 100 who rely on reduced-cost school lunches.

Klus says if the state set a target of serving 40 children per 100, it would help close the food gap for hundreds of thousands of families, and bring in an additional $16 million in federal funds.

But Klus says Illinois' record setting, yearlong budget impasse is hurting some of the public agencies and groups that set up summer meal sites across the state.

"The state budget impasse has made it harder for some nonprofit organizations to stay open, and some organizations have been impacted to the point where they've had to cut back or reduce the number of sites they have," she states.

However, the Illinois Board of Education says hundreds of summer meal sites are operating across the state.

Klus says parents can find a local site by calling the Hunger Coalition at 800-359-2163.


Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL