Programs for Children
Children should never have to worry about where or when they will have their next meal. But when school lets out, children may lose access to their primary source of food. In Cook County, 1 in 5 children is at risk of hunger and more than 37 percent of the people who receive food from the Greater Chicago Food Depository are children. The Kids Cafe program provides children with nutritious meals at after-school programs and during the summer at sites throughout Cook County. Kids Cafes operate after-school, during the summer and some sites run year round.
The link between child nutrition and mental and physical growth is well established. Lack of proper nourishment can affect healthy development. Children who go hungry can fall behind in virtually every way – physically, behaviorally and academically.
Each Kids Cafe meal includes a protein, complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit and dairy and accordance with USDA nutritional guidelines for children. Meals are made available to eligible participants without regard to race, color, sex, age disability or national origin.
The Kids Cafe program is an initiative of Feeding America and is administered locally by the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The Food Depository distributes approximately 3,000 meals each day to more than 60 after-school and 80 summer programs in Cook County. During fiscal year 2011-2012, more than 700,000 meals were distributed to children across Cook County. Many of the nutritious meals distributed to Kids Cafe sites are prepared by Chicago’s Community Kitchens (CCK) – the Food Depository’s foodservice training program for unemployed and underemployed adults.
Kids Cafes can be found in a variety of locations including, but not limited to, community centers, social service agencies, faith-based organizations, YMCAs, park districts, Salvation Army and Boys and Girls Club sites. Kids Cafes that provide meals after school also offer children a variety of fun activities to foster learning, fitness and creativity.
Nourish for Knowledge is the local initiative of Feeding America's Backpack Program. The program provides take-home bags of nutritious, ready-to-eat, shelf-stable food to schoolchildren in low-income neighborhoods. Nourish for Knowledge ensures that children who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals at school have the nutritious food they need over the weekend. The Food Depository and Chicago Public Schools have teamed up to offer the bags of food in 14 schools. The program also serves two suburban elementary schools in Chicago Heights and Ford Heights. More than 7,300 bags of healthy snacks are distributed every week.
- In Fall 2009, the Food Depository began adding meal-like contents to the bags such as: tuna salad cups, minestrone soup, beef and noodles, and oatmeal packets.
- In January 2010, the program expanded a pilot to include three pieces of fresh fruit with each bag for every Nourish for Knowledge recipient.
- Introduced new site requirement for schools to demonstrate a commitment to child nutrition by offering federal nutrition programs to students, including universal breakfast in the classroom by January 2011.
- More than 119,000 Nourish for Knowledge bags were distributed in Fiscal Year 2011-2012.
For more information about Nourish for Knowledge, download the Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) or contact the Programs Department at 773-843-2608.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository and Chicago Public Schools teamed up on three Healthy Kids Markets in 2010. Healthy Kids Markets, or food pantries located in schools, provide nutritious food to students and their families who may not be able to visit a traditional food pantry due to work hours or location. In Fiscal Year 2011-2012, Healthy Kids Markets distributed nearly 1.3 million pounds of food, serving 2,500 families each week.
The Food Depository provides a variety of healthy foods, including fresh fruit and vegetables and shelf-stable items like pasta, peanut butter, rice and beans. Volunteers and staff from the school unload, set up and operate the pantry. Each school designates a weekly or bi-monthly pantry time and space, such as the cafeteria, gym or an extra classroom.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository launched a mobile meal program in June 2010 to distribute nutritious lunches to children under 18 years old in priority Cook County communities during the summer months. Now in its third year, the Lunch Bus travels to 21 sites on three routes every summer weekday. The Lunch Bus serves more than 3,300 meals every week. Lunch Bus meals are reimbursed through the Illinois State Board of Education.
|Bank of America is the lead corporate supporter of the
Food Depository's children's programs.