|A child receives lunch at Casa Juan Diego in Pilsen.|
For the Kids Cafe at Casa Juan Diego in Pilsen, there is no spring break.
Even when Chicago Public Schools close for a week in April, the Greater Chicago Food Depository program stays open. It’s indicative of the need among children in the community.
“We want to make sure that children have a meal and a place to go,” said Amanda Yepez, the Kids Cafe coordinator. “We know there’s a need here. Many of these families are struggling to survive.”
During the school year, the Kids Cafe serves meals to approximately 50 children each day. Many of the children in Pilsen come from families in which both parents work, but healthy food is still difficult to afford.
“We’re able to provide these children with a healthy, well-balanced meal,” Amanda said. “Families are having trouble paying bills and rent and everything and can’t afford that for their children.”
Casa Juan Diego doesn’t just stay open during spring break. When school ends in June, they become a summer meal site.
“I’d say the need is almost greater during the summer,” said Ricardo Marines, Casa Juan Diego’s assistant director.
This summer, Ricardo expects to serve nearly 100 children per day at the Kids Cafe.
“Most of the time, kids come to our center during the summer without having breakfast or lunch,” he said.
Casa Juan Diego is just one of many children’s meal sites sponsored by the Food Depository during the summer. Programs like Kids Cafes and the Lunch Bus, which delivers meals to children at 21 sites per day, help bridge the gap for children who were receiving free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school during the year but no longer have access to those meals.
For Ricardo, the philosophy is simple.
“Whether it’s winter, spring or summer, we want to make sure we have a place – and a meal – for these children.”