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Hunger Beat

Ensuring every child's summer is fueled with nutritious food

As summer arrives, families across the city are eagerly anticipating the joys of the season—barbecues with friends and family, laughter-filled gatherings at the beach or the park, and cherished moments shared under the warm sun.

Yet, in the middle of the excitement, 1 in 4 Chicago area families with children face the stark reality of food insecurity, a challenge made more difficult during the summer months when school-provided meals also break for the summer. Lunches provided at school give families much-needed relief from providing three meals a day per child, straining already tight budgets.

Children in line for lunch

Nutritious summer lunches being provided to children in Chicago.

Some Chicagoland communities are at greater risk of experiencing food insecurity. Neighborhoods like Humboldt Park and Austin on the city’s northwest and west sides have child poverty rates of 34 and 35 percent respectively. This is significantly higher than the 17 percent rate for the city according to Census data tracked by the Food Depository.

That’s why one of the main focuses of the Greater Chicago Food Depository is ensuring that every child has access to the nourishing meals they need to thrive when school is out of session.

Food is not merely sustenance but a cornerstone of family life, a way to show love and a vibrant expression of community. Our way of honoring that is making sure families get the food they need when they need it, where they need it.

Meeting Families Where They Are

Our belief that no child should go without nutritious meals during the summer months, or at any time of the year, shows in our goal to be everywhere families need us. We partner with food pantries and other organizations in neighborhoods that serve as cultural hubs and are familiar to area residents.

From Pilsen and Humboldt Park to Chatham and Portage Park, our network of over 800 pantries and programs offer more than just food—they offer peace of mind, with familiar, kid-friendly ingredients that honor the diverse culinary traditions across our communities.

Two people handing out summer lunches.

Greater Chicago Food Depository handing out summer lunches to kids.

Our find food map allows visitors to view hours, locations and other information for the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s network of food pantries, meal programs and distribution partners across Chicago and Cook County.

The map is designed to connect you with resources in just one click, whether you need help finding where to get free groceries or help locating the nearest soup kitchen for a hot meal right away.

At the end of a busy school year, families facing stress and hardship might find it daunting to find food resources. In addition to visiting local food pantries, summer meal programs for children are also available in the summer.

Families can simply text ‘FOOD’ or ‘COMIDA’ to 304-304 to see where they can access their nearest summer meal sites at local libraries, parks and community centers.

Summer EBT is another way families can receive support when their children are not receiving free or reduced-fee meals during the school year. This program assists families in affording groceries by providing a one-time benefit of $120 per eligible child distributed on EBT cards that can be used for SNAP-eligible items at authorized retail stores.

There is no citizenship requirement. Learn more about Summer EBT and find out if your child is eligible.

Kids line up for lunch.

Kids line up for hot lunch distribution at Kidwatch Plus.

This summer, the Greater Chicago Food Depository and our partners look forward to making sure that every child’s summer is filled with nourishment and joy and every parent’s heart is filled with the tranquility of a food-secure season.

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