Only about 1 in 7 Illinois children who ate free or reduced-priced meals during the 2011-12 school year ate free meals through summer food programs during the summer of 2012, according to the state board of education. | File photo
Updated: March 24, 2014 6:02AM
The Illinois State Board of Education wants to make sure every child has access to nutritious meals during summer break from school, and it encourages school districts, local government entities and nonprofits to become a summer food site sponsor or host a site to provide free, healthy meals and snacks to children from low-income households, according to a release from the board.
Alsip will be the site of a sponsor workshop in March.
Would-be sponsors may submit online applications to the state board starting March 10. Potential site hosts should contact the board at (800) 545-7892 to receive a list of sponsors in their area, the board said.
Last summer, Illinois had more than 1,700 summer food service program sites and 150 participating sponsors statewide, the board said.
“Low-income families often have difficulty fulfilling their children’s nutritional needs outside of the school day, which can negatively affect their developmental, social and emotional well-being,” state Supt. Christopher A. Koch said in the press release. “Engaged learning requires healthy bodies and minds, and summer food programs play a crucial role in filling the nutritional gap over the summer months so students return to the classroom ready for success. I urge school administrators to spread the word about these valuable programs and encourage their local families to participate.”
Summer food programs provide free meals and snacks to low-income children through age 18 when schools are on break, the release said. Individuals ages 18 through 21 who are enrolled in school programs for persons with disabilities and have an IEP on file also may participate. Summer food programs typically operate when school is not in session during June, July and August but can start as early as May and may go into September. Sites must be located in areas where at least 50 percent of the children are eligible for free and reduced meals from the National School Lunch Program or the family’s income is 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, the board said.
During the summer of 2012, nearly 95,000 low-income Illinois children ate free meals through summer food programs. That represents only 12.8 percent of about 740,000 children who ate free or reduced-priced meals during the 2011-12 school year, the release said. The state board of education administers the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, which is designed to bridge the summer nutrition gap.
Sponsor applications are due no later than June 15 and can be found by visiting www.isbe.net/nutrition/htmls/summer.htm.
School districts, local governments and nonprofits all can sponsor summer food sites, which may include schools, parks, recreation centers, housing projects, migrant centers, churches, summer camps and others, the board said. Most summer food program sites are open to all children in the community without any sign-up or enrollment. However, some sites only serve meals to those children enrolled in a specific program.
Training is required to apply and participate as a sponsor. The upcoming sponsor workshop in the Southland is March 20 in Alsip. To register, visit www.isbe.net/nutrition/htmls/sfsp_training.htm.
Schools may help sponsors get the word out to students, their families and the community about available programs.
To find a summer meals site nearby, call the Illinois Hunger Coalition’s Hunger hot line at (800) 359-2163 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Summer meal sites also can be found by texting FoodIL to 877877, or visit SummerFoodIllinois.org.