For Immediate Release
Monday, June 5, 2017

Children eat free at more than 1,500 Summer Meals sites across Illinois

Summer Food Service Program family kick-off event in Chicago set for June 23

SPRINGFIELD — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, also known as Summer Meals, is kicking off at more than 1,500 sites across Illinois, with sponsors continuing to open additional sites. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) administers the Summer Meals program to provide free and nutritious meals and snacks to children during the summer months in between the school years. Last year, Summer Meals sites served over 5.4 million meals. 

ISBE partner organizations No Kid Hungry and the Illinois Hunger Coalition staff a calling and texting hotline to refer families to their nearest meal sites. Interested families can call (800) 359-2163, text “FoodIL” or “ComidasIL” to 877-877, or visit Days and times of operation vary by site. Summer Meals serves children and teens age 18 and younger.

“Summer Meals helps to bridge the gap for children who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the year,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “ISBE deeply appreciates the Summer Meals sites and sponsors who bring the program to life in hundreds of communities across the state. Research shows that students with access to healthy meals perform better in school. ISBE is proud to administer the Summer Meals program and to continue investing in students’ health, which is critical to learning.”

Illinois Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti has partnered with Summer Meals to raise awareness of the need for more program sponsors. Since taking office, Sanguinetti has advocated for programs that fight food insecurity, childhood hunger, and the lack of healthy food options in certain communities.

“As someone who grew up in poverty, I know firsthand the helplessness a child feels when they are unsure of from where their next meal will come,” said Sanguinetti. “This is an unfortunate reality for far too many children in Illinois. I strongly encourage school districts, local leaders, and nonprofit organizations to join the Summer Meals program and partner with me to ensure no child goes hungry this summer.”

For every 100 children who receive meals through the National School Lunch Programs (NSLP), only 14 received meals over the summer. Although 172 SFSP sponsors and 135 Seamless Summer Option sponsors administered over 2,200 meal sites in 2016, Illinois’ children need many more sponsors to provide access to healthy food in every county in the state. At the end of 2016, Illinois had 35 counties with no SFSP sponsors or meal sites. Organizations can learn more about becoming a Summer Meals sponsor at

Research shows that healthy students are better learners. Healthy students achieve higher on all levels of academic performance, including grades, attendance, and cognitive skills and attitudes. The Summer Meals program helps to keep students healthy while school is not in session, so they return to the classroom ready to learn in the fall.

Chicagoland Summer Meals sites will hold a family kick-off event on Friday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Horner Park at 2741 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago, IL 60618. Learn more at


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In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

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