Program helps kids beat hunger and heat
MASSAC COUNTY, Ill. — There's a lunch rush at the Spence Community Center in Metropolis, Illinois on Thursday but there usually is.
It's just one of the sites in southern Illinois that provides free lunches to kids under the age of 18.
In order for the state to set up a place like the Spence Center and have the United States Department of Agriculture to pay for the meals, 50 percent of the kids in the school district must be eligible for free or reduced lunches.
However, there's no application or proof of income required to get a meal.
“This program helps keep students on track during the summer months and they’re better prepared to succeed when school doors open again in the fall,” said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. “When children continue good habits, such as eating nutritious meals, they are better able to adapt to the school year.”
Nicholette Dolin, the Project Manager for the Illinois Coalition for Community Services said not only do they provide hot meals, but they also offer a cool room for kids and their parents to hang out.
"At most of the sites, we do have something fun going on for the kids," she said.
Thursday, there was an art camp.
Dolin added she sees a direct relationship between the number of kids who sign in and the weather outside.
"If there isn't a way for the kids to get there, we actually see the numbers go down because they don't want to walk to the site or ride a bike to the site," she said.
This year, families can search for a nearby site offering free meals.
The website is offered through Share Our Strength, a national child anti-hunger organization, and other organizations that are addressing childhood hunger with the Illinois No Kid Hungry campaign.
Individuals can also text FoodIL to 877-877 or get the Android App.