Illinois is doing a better job – but still not a good job – of feeding hungry kids in the summer. Kids from low-income families can get breakfast and lunch at school, and 774,814 do. But when school is out, only 106,818 – 13.8 – percent turn up at summer meal sites. That’s a 2013 figure, up from 12.5 percent in 2012.
Diane Doherty of the Illinois Hunger Coalition says she’d like to see the figure reach 60 percent, and the USDA, which funds the summer meal program, is trying to help. “The United States Department of Agriculture had chosen Illinois as one of a handful of states that they would work with us this summer and do some targeted outreach in an effort to expand the number of kids that are getting fed,” she said.
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The summer meals are served at 1,200 locations around the state, typically at parks, community centers, churches and school that are in session. The problems are finding sponsors and sites that will serve the meals, notifying the kids and their parents of the availability of the meals, and in some cases transportation.