CPS Doubling Number of Mobile Summer Meals Sites

June 07, 2017

On an average day, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) serves 237,744 free lunches to its students, according to the Food Research Action Center (FRAC). But when school is out for the summer, many students still rely on that source of healthy food. Children, especially those from low-income families, are at a higher risk of both hunger and obesity during the summer months.

That’s why CPS is committed to providing healthy meals over the summer, not only to its students, but to children across Chicago. Through the Summer Food Service Program, the district provides free breakfast and lunch inside district schools to students attending summer programs, as well as to all community children ages 1-18, even those not currently enrolled in CPS.

But the program goes beyond that. CPS also operates small, mobile carts that provide free meals outside of CPS schools for any child younger than 18 through its LunchStop program. In addition to providing meals, LunchStop sites also feature health-promoting activities from food and fitness partners.

This year, CPS is doubling the number of LunchStop sites from 50 to 100, says Allison Polke, registered dietician at CPS. Last summer, the program provided more than 93,000 meals to Chicago’s children—up from 83,000 in summer 2015.

Funding for the program comes through the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The program is administered at the state level by state education agencies like the Illinois State Board of Education and is sponsored locally by organizations such as schools, summer camps or community non-profits. These groups can provide free nutritious meals to children 18 and younger in communities where at least half of the resident families earn incomes at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

The Chicago Food Depository is the lead organization in Chicago helping to coordinate the summer meals program locally. It works to increase the number of organizations to sponsor SFSP—one of the key program sponsors in CPS. The organization offers breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and supper at its sites—many of which are CPS schools.

In Chicago—and across the country—summer meal programs ensure that all students—regardless of race or socioeconomic status—can continue to eat healthy all summer long. You can access a summer meal site finder on the USDA’s website.