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Northern Illinois Food Bank and USDA offer summer food assistance for children

Free summer lunch and food assistance for families in need

Children eat lunch as part of one of the Northern Illinois Food Bank's free summer lunch programs. The Geneva-based food bank has 56 locations that provide free lunches to children who would otherwise receive free breakfast or lunch while school is in session.
Mark Wilcox Photo Film

As summer approaches, children who are eligible for free or reduced-price breakfast at school lose that opportunity.

However, according to the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva and the Nourishing Neighbors Coalition, a program of the Albertsons Companies Foundation, some assistance is available.

One is the Food Bank's Summer Food Service Program, which operates 56 locations in 13 counties throughout the summer where children can receive free lunch. The other is a new program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture called SUN Bucks, which provides financial assistance with grocery shopping.

“If children are enrolled in summer camp in their park district, they can get a lunch,” said Melinda Craigs-Ingram, senior manager of public policy and human services for the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

All lunch areas, times and days are available on the food bank's website, solvehungertoday.org, and through a downloadable link, Craigs-Ingram said.

Kane County has 12 locations, one of which offers lunch Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Alive Center for Teens, 406 W. Galena Blvd., Aurora.

There are six locations in DuPage County, one of which is open Monday through Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at the Glen Ellyn Public Library, 400 Duane St., Glen Ellyn.

McHenry County has four locations, one of which offers lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Ladd Park, 556 Coventry Lane, Crystal Lake.

Will County, with six locations, lunch is held Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 805 Western Ave., Joliet.

The new USDA program, SUN Bucks, or S-EBT, is a summer food assistance program for low-income families to help pay for meals their children would otherwise receive while school is in session, said spokeswoman Isabella Huang Isett.

“The Albertsons Companies Foundation is partnering with the Northern Illinois Food Bank to spread this information and promote this new food drive,” Isett said.

Albertsons is the parent company of Jewel-Osco.

EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer. It is an electronic system that allows participants to pay for food with SNAP benefits. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Families cannot apply through the Summer EBT website, www.summerebt.org, but they can learn if they are eligible and the website will direct them to the appropriate state application, Isett said.

“This is a resource to walk you through the USDA process,” Isett said. “We want to make sure families have the resources they need.”

Because this new permanent program was not completed until after the summer break this year, the USDA will provide a one-time payment of $120 to families who qualify in late August, Craigs-Ingram said.

Friends eat lunch at one of the Northern Illinois Food Bank's free summer lunch programs. The Geneva-based food bank offers 56 free lunch locations for children who would otherwise receive free breakfast or lunch while schools are in session.
Courtesy of Northern Illinois Food Bank

Next summer, families will receive $40 per month per child for the three months their children are out of school, Craigs-Ingram said.

If anyone is having trouble understanding or using the technology related to the SUN Bucks or free summer lunches, Craigs-Ingram said they can call the food bank at (844) 600-7627 and ask the benefits access team for assistance.

“And we’ll go from there,” she said.

Anna Harden

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