Food programs provide meals to youth during summer

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School’s out for the summer, and for too many Chicago youth that means going hungry.

Because most of Chicago Public School’s nearly 400,000 students receive free or reduced lunches during the school year, there are five more days a week during the summer that many go without regular meals.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository, along with the Illinois State Board of Education, CPS and several other organizations, kicked off Cook County’s “summer meals” effort last week at Dunbar Park to let  Chicago’s youngest residents know where they can go to eat.

“One in five children in Cook County doesn’t know where their next meal is going to come from,” said Paul Morello, a spokesman for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a nonprofit food distribution and training center.

The summer meal program, which is federally funded by the USDA and the Illinois State Board of Education, began in 2006 when parents and teachers realized a need for summer food programs.

With nearly 255,000 in Cook County at risk of hunger, Morello said there continues to be a need for free meals during summer break.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository alone offers 250 feeding sites, providing meals across the Chicagoland area. These locations are expected to serve approximately 400,000 meals this summer, Morello said.

“There are a number of different feeding sites,” he said. “One is the lunch bus, which goes to a number of different spots in the city and suburbs throughout the day.”

The lunch bus distributes free lunches to kids 18 and younger, every Monday through Friday through Sept. 4 . The food service has three different routes serving the North, West and South sides of Chicago, as well as the  South suburbs, Morello said.

Lunch bus locations on the West Side are:

  • Austin branch Library, 5615 W. Race Ave from 1:15 p.m. to 1:35 p.m.
  • Henry Legler Library, 115 S. Pulaski Road from 3 p.m. to 3:20 p.m.

Diann Lambert, Christian education director at New Genesis AOG Baptist Church, 1400 N. Laramie Ave., heads her church’s summer food assistance program, which receives assistance from the USDA and the Archdiocese of Chicago.

New Genesis has participated in the summer meal program for nine years, and serves an average of 35 to 55 youth, Lambert said.

“(It’s) not that the area is that under privileged, but we do find that the children are hungry,” Lambert said.

Children ages 18 and younger can receive lunch at the church between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. July 13 through 17 during a one-week summer vacation bible school. Other summer meal programs on the West Side are available during the week day throughout the summer, from July 17 through Aug. 18.

Sandwich meals with a vegetable, fruit and milk will be provided at New Genesis, and there is no registration, Lambert said. However, meals must be eaten on the premises, according to USDA guidelines, she said.

With a sign on the front door of the church notifying the neighborhood that free meals for kids are provided, Lambert said this summer initiative has served an important purpose within the community.

Additional summer meal services for youth 18 years old and younger in and around the Austin area are located at:

1256 N. Waller, (773) 265-8713

Monday – Friday through Aug. 28

Breakfast: 10 to 11:00 a.m.

Lunch: 12 to 1 p.m.

  • Great True Vine Baptist Church

5936 W. Division St., (773) 265 – 8714

Monday – Friday through Aug. 28

Breakfast: 9 to 10 a.m.

Lunch: 12 to 1 p.m.

5900 W. Iowa St., (773) 265-8713

Monday – Friday through Aug. 28

Breakfast: 10 to 11 a.m.

Lunch: 12 to 1 p.m.

  • New Kingdom Church

5213 W. Potomac Ave., (708) 752-1980

Monday – Friday through Aug. 28

Breakfast: 8:30 to 10 a.m.

Lunch: 12 to 1:30 p.m.

  • One Stop Outreach

6120 W. North Ave., (773) 552-0259

Monday – Friday through  Aug. 28

Breakfast: 8:30 to 10 a.m.

Lunch: 12 to 2:00 p.m.

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