On a shady corner besides the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel in McKinley Park, the streets are quiet and lined with well-kept houses with the odd bicycle or scooter parked outside. It is here that the Lunch Bus stops at 12:45 p.m. each weekday to provide meals for the children in the area. At first it was the slowest stop, with just one little girl from across the street coming out each day. Gaby and I would have lunch together.

Two weeks in, word finally got out. One family with nine children began arriving each day in a large black van. The family would pile out and, after politely accepting their lunches, would sit together on the steps near the church to eat. Then a babysitter brought the two children she watches, Mia and Liam. Mia is two years old and learning both Spanish and English. “Manana!” she says as she rolls away in her stroller each afternoon. Ricardo and his sister Nubia also come often, always smiling and asking me how I am.

Lastly, the Napoleon family became Lunch Bus regulars. Each day Alyssa and her brothers, Jared and Jaden, sprint down the block when they see the Lunch Bus. On July 22, lunch included watermelon and celery. The Napoleons were excited for the fresh produce. “They love fruit,” their mother explained. “Once every two weeks the local grocery store has a 10 for $10 sale on fruit, and they keep track of when it is for me.” Alyssa smiled at me with her watermelon-juice lips, “Will there be more food like this next week?”

Allison Lantero is the City Route Lunch Bus intern at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The Lunch Bus returned in June, expanding its city and South Suburban routes to include a total of 15 sites across Cook County. Throughout the summer months the program will distribute approximately 15,000 meals reimbursed by the Illinois Board of Education. With the help of Food Depository interns and volunteers, the Lunch Bus visits sites in underserved neighborhoods to deliver healthy food directly to children. The Food Depository identified priority areas for the Lunch Bus based on the Running on Empty study of child hunger, released in 2010.

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