For Immediate Release
January 31, 2014

Illinois State Board of Education seeks sponsors/sites for summer food programs

Programs ensure low-income students are well-fed when school is out

SPRINGFIELD – Though the thermostat says otherwise, summer will be here soon and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) wants to make sure every child has access to nutritious meals during the break from school. School districts, local government entities and non-profits are encouraged to become a summer food site sponsor and/or site to provide free, healthy meals and snacks to low-income children.

Sponsors may submit their online applications to ISBE starting March 10. Potential sites should contact the Illinois State Board of Education at (800) 545-7892 to receive a list of sponsors in their area.

Last summer, Illinois had more than 1,700 summer food service program sites and 150 participating sponsors across the state.

“Low-income families often have difficulty fulfilling their children’s nutritional needs outside of the school day, which can negatively affect their developmental, social and emotional well-being,” State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch said. “Engaged learning requires healthy bodies and minds, and summer food programs play a crucial role in filling the nutritional gap over the summer months so students return to the classroom ready for success. I urge school administrators to spread the word about these valuable programs and encourage their local families to participate.”

Summer food programs provide free meals and snacks to low-income children through age 18 when schools are on break. Individuals age 18 through 21 who are enrolled in school programs for persons with disabilities and have an IEP on file may also participate. Summer food programs typically operate when school is not in session during June, July and August, but can start as early as May and may go into September. Sites must be located in areas where at least 50 percent of the children are eligible for free and reduced meals from the National School Lunch Program or the family’s income is 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

During the summer of 2012, nearly 95,000 low-income Illinois children ate free meals through summer food programs. Those children represent 12.8 percent of the roughly 740,000 children who ate free or reduced-priced meals during the 2011-2012 school year. Nationally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that only 2.8 million children received summer meals on an average day during the summer. The total number of children participating in summer nutrition nationally saw a small increase of 13,000 meals in July 2012 from July 2011. However, only one in seven children who receive regular year school lunch is getting summer nutrition.

ISBE administers the USDA’s ‘Summer Food Service Program,’ also known as ‘Summer Meals,’ which is designed to bridge the summer nutrition gap by offering free nutritious breakfasts, lunches or snacks to children age 18 and younger. Sponsor applications are due no later than June 15 and can be found at:

School districts, local governments and non-profits can all 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 children in the community without any sign up or enrollment. However, some sites only serve meals to those children enrolled in a specific program.

Training is required to apply and participate as a sponsor. Upcoming sponsor workshop dates and cities are listed below. To register for the workshops, please visit Training locations and dates include:

Institutions may also participate as a feeding site through an existing or a new sponsor.

Schools may help sponsors get the word out to students, their families and the community about available programs.

To find a summer meals site close to you, contact the Illinois Hunger Coalition’s 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. Summer meal sites can also be found by texting FoodIL to 877877 or visit

The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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