For Immediate Release
June 13, 2007

Summer food programs filling nutritional gap for thousands of Illinois students

6 million meals to be served at more than 1,800 locations statewide

Springfield, Ill. – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced today that more than 1,800 agencies have signed up to participate in this summer’s food service programs for low-income students. ISBE estimates this summer more than 6 million free nutritious meals and snacks will be served to thousands of Illinois’ children.

“During the school year, our students depend on receiving free and reduced-price school meals each day for their nutritional needs,” said State Superintendent Christopher Koch. “Their nutritional needs do not stop in the summer because school is out. That’s why the summer food programs are important.”

The Illinois State Board of Education administers two federally funded summer food programs – the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ‘Summer Food Service Program for Children’ and the federal National School Lunch Program’s ‘Seamless Summer Option.’ Both programs are designed to bridge the summer nutrition gap by offering free nutritious breakfasts, lunches or snacks to children 18 and younger.

Last summer, more than 95,000 low-income Illinois children ate free meals through both summer food programs. However, that’s only 14.8 percent of the roughly 644,000 children who ate free or reduced-priced meals during the 2005-2006 school year. Nationally, the USDA reports that more than 15 million children depend on free or reduced price school meals during the school year, only 2.9 million children are receiving summer meals. This represents less than one in five of the children served during the school year.

Summer food programs work by providing free meals and snacks to low-income children through age 18 when school is not in session. People over age 18 who are enrolled in school programs for persons with disabilities may also participate. Summer food programs typically operate in June, July and August but can start as early as May and can go into September.

Local governments, school districts and non-profits sponsor summer food sites, which may include schools, parks, recreation centers, housing projects, migrant centers, churches, summer camps, and others. Most summer food program sites are open to all the children in the community. These “open sites” are eligible for federal funds if the site is located in an area in which at least 50 percent of the children are from households that would be eligible for free or reduced price school meals. All children 18 years of age or younger who come to an approved open site may receive meals.

Other summer food facts:

To locate an open site summer food program in Chicago, contact the Illinois Hunger Coalition Hunger Hotline at 1-800-359-2163 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hotline is available in both English and Spanish.

An interactive map of the state’s summer food program sites can be found online at: or call Nutrition Programs at 1-800-545-7892.