|Children eat a meal at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center in Evanston.|
On a quiet, tree-lined street in Evanston, children laughed and played on a swing set in front of the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center. The afternoon summer sun warmed the air as kids zoomed down slides and frolicked in the grass.
Inside the center, a meal was being prepared for the children. If it weren’t for that meal, many might not be eating dinner at home.
“You can’t even imagine how much these kids need this,” said Martin Mancere, the program coordinator. He was busy putting sandwiches, sweet potatoes and cartons of milk on trays as the kids came in from the playground.
“A lot of these kids don’t go home to quality, nutritious food like we provide them,” Martin said.
The community center is one of three meal programs sponsored by the City of Evanston and reimbursed through the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Students can enroll in the program, but drop-ins are also welcome. The center serves approximately 50 children per day.
“There’s a real need here,” said Betsy Jenkins, the center director. “There’s poverty all over, including in Evanston, and kids need the food.”
The City of Evanston is one of many CACFP sponsors throughout Cook County. The Greater Chicago Food Depository is also a sponsor of CACFP sites, called Kids Cafes.
During the summer, the site serves breakfast as part of the national Summer Food Service Program, which is intended to fill the gap for food insecure children who are no longer receiving free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school.
“If we can give these kids something substantial to help fill their stomachs, we are doing our job,” Betsy said.