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Summer Food Program Offers Students Free Meals
The countdown to summer is on many young students' minds, and although the students will soon be out of the classrooms, it doesn't mean they will be out of the cafeteria.
Once that final school bell rings this summer, students who rely primarily on the school lunch program can still get nutritious meals and snacks throughout those hot summer months.
The best part about the summer food service program is that it's free.
Program consultant Amy Bianco said the sponsored summer food program has grown over the years, and now has more than 2,000 sites throughout the state of Illinois where children could grab a free bite to eat.
"Any child 18 years and under could walk into that site and get a meal and then that sponsor would get reimbursed for that meal," Bianco said.
Last year the program fed nearly 50,000 meals to children just in the school District 186 food service sites. Food Service Director Jan Miller of Springfield Public Schools said the program is not just limited to children in school.
"We have one where kids at the school program eat, and we have what we call the community time, and the community time is where people from anywhere in Springfield, anywhere in the state of Illinois, people can come for a breakfast or a lunch," Miller said.
Illinois State Board of Education Chairmen Gery Chico said good nutrition is essential for educating students on the importance of healthy eating.
"The federal government has insisted upon healthier and more nutritious meals for our students, and we think that's a great idea too, because a lot of the habits that kids pick up is in the school, so why not pick up a good habit like eating properly," Chico said.
At most of the summer food program sites, children can receive either one or two meals each day.
If you are looking for the nearest summer food service program site, all you have to do is text the words FOOD-IL to 877-877. It will then ask for your zip code and you will receive a text of the three closest sites near you.