Free summer meal programs for kids in need - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Free summer meal programs for kids in need

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WSIL-TV - Many students look forward to fun in the sun on their summer break. But some, who rely on free or reduced lunches at school, worry about where their next meal will come from.

But thanks to the Illinois Summer Meals program through the State Board of Education and USDA, they don't have to worry.  The program is set to kick off soon, with sites throughout the state. 

There are also local groups that give out free lunches like the Herrin House of Hope and Boyton Street Community Center in Marion, First United Church and Zion United Church of Christ.

Reverend John Hackman says the free lunches do more than feed the kids, but also help them to enjoy their time off of school, "Kids should be excited to be out of school, to have the summer to play and have fun. But if they're really unsure where their next meal is going to come from,then it's not a good or fun summer." 

The Illinois Summer Meals Program is set to kick off in the coming weeks. Soon thousands of sites across Illinois will offer free meals. 

"Sites can serve, most of them serve up to, two meals," Amy Bianco, Summer Food Coordinator for Illinois State Board of Education said. "There's a few camps that will serve up to 3 meals a day. but normal its usually two meals a day so a child could have both breakfast and lunch."

Last year, more than 5.4 million meals were served. 

Bianco says free summer meal programs help children retain the information they learned throughout the school year and keep fit, "A lot of time kids that don't get a healthy meal, they're just grabbing chips or something like that at home, which can cause the weight gain." 

While a full list of sites giving out free meals through the Illinois Summer Meals program will be available within about a week.  Those interested can visit their website here

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