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Northern Illinois Food Bank, USDA offer summer food aid for children

Free summer lunches, grocery assistance on tap for families in need

Children have lunch at one of the Northern Illinois Food Bank’s free summer lunch programs. The food bank, based in Geneva, provides 56 sites where free lunches are served to children who would otherwise have free breakfast or lunch while school is in session.
Mark Wilcox Photo Film

When summer rolls around, children who qualify for free and reduced breakfast at school lose that opportunity.

But there’s a couple of benefits available, according to the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva and the Nourishing Neighbors Coalition, a program of Albertsons Companies Foundation.

One is the Food Bank’s Summer Food Service Program, which operates 56 sites in 13 counties all summer where children can get a free lunch. The other is a new program launched by the USDA called SUN Bucks, which provides financial grocery assistance.

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

All the areas, times and days for the lunches are on the food bank’s website, solvehungertoday.org, and available in a link that can be downloaded, Craigs-Ingram said.

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

In DuPage County, with six sites, one is open from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Glen Ellyn Public Library, 400 Duane St., Glen Ellyn.

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

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

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

“Albertsons Companies Foundation is working with the Northern Illinois Food Bank to get this information out to promote this new grocery benefit,” 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 using SNAP benefits. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Families can’t apply through the Summer EBT website, www.summerebt.org, but they can learn if they are eligible and the website will guide them to the relevant state application, Isett said.

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

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

Friends have lunch at one of the Northern Illinois Food Bank’s free summer lunch programs. The food bank, based in Geneva, provides 56 sites for free lunch for children who would otherwise have free breakfast or lunch while school is in session.
Courtesy of Northern Illinois Food Bank

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

If a person is struggling with understanding or technology for either SUN Bucks or the free summer lunches, Craigs-Ingram said they can call the food bank at (844) 600-7627 and ask for assistance from the benefits access team.

“And we will take it from there,” she said.

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