A young girl enjoys her lunch at the summer meals kickoff event, held at Dunbar Park on June 24, 2015.
The start of summer for most children usually means seemingly endless days, sunshine and plenty of free time to relax and enjoy being a kid. Whether it’s spending a day at the beach, grilling out with family and friends, or anything in between, many children and families in Cook County don’t think about where their next meal will come from. But for many families, this concern is a familiar reality.
To launch Cook County’s summer meals program, hundreds of children attended a kickoff event at Dunbar Park on June 24. The event was organized by the Chicago Summer Meals Working Group, which consists of the United States Department of Agriculture, Illinois State Board of Education, Greater Chicago Food Depository, No Kid Hungry Illinois, Chicago Park District, Illinois Hunger Coalition, Archdiocese of Chicago, Catholic Charities, Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago Public Schools.

“1 in 5 children is at risk of hunger,” said Kate Maehr, Food Depository executive director and CEO. “Together, we can ensure children have enough food to eat.”

The event connected parents and guardians with children’s summer meal sites in their area. Children also received a free meal and enjoyed festive activities.

Children are at an increased risk of hunger during the summer, when many who receive free or reduced-price school lunches lose an important source of food. Last year, only 14 percent of eligible Illinois children received free summer meals. In order to respond to the need facing these children, the Food Depository plans to operate nearly 300 summer meal sites and distribute more than 400,000 nutritious meals to children.
To find a summer meals site near you, visit summermealsillinois.org, call 1-800-359-2163 or text “FOODIL” to 877877.