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February 21, 2019

2/13/2019 11:16:00 AM
State seeking to fill local 'gaps' in summer nutrition
Crawford and area counties are among those lacking access to healthy meals for children in the summer, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

The Summer Food Service Program needs partners in 33 Illinois counties to fill gaps in access to healthy meals, according to the board. The program provides nutritious meals to children, age 18 and younger, during the summer months in low-economic areas when school is not in session.

SFSP sponsors receive federal reimbursement via ISBE to cover the administrative and operating costs of preparing and serving meals.

Crawford, Lawrence and Jasper are among the 33 counties in Illinois that do not have any SFSP serving sites.

For every 100 children nationally who received meals through the National School Lunch Program in the 2017-18 school year, only 15 received meals last summer.

School districts, local governments, and nonprofits can become sponsors and set up serving sites at schools, parks, recreation centers, resource centers, churches, summer camps, libraries, and other community locations.

Those interested in becoming SFSP sponsors should contact ISBE at (800) 545-7892.

"Summer may feel far away, but we are already planning for how we can ensure every child has reliable access to meals when the school year ends," said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. "Losing access to school lunch and breakfast over the summer poses a significant challenge for many Illinois families. The link between sufficient healthy food and our ability to learn and retain information is indisputable. The community partners who operate summer food sites make a tangible difference in students' lives."

In 2018, 151 SFSP sponsors and 153 sponsors of Seamless Summer (an option available to current National School Lunch Program sponsors) distributed meals and snacks at about 2,200 sites in Illinois. 

Harrisburg Unit 3 Schools received an honorable mention in the Governor's Hometown Awards for their work as an SFSP sponsor. Harrisburg not only has an on-site facility but also delivers meals to "mobile sites" each day so that every child has the opportunity to receive a nourishing meal each day of summer break. Community donations on top of the federal reimbursement allow the program to offer giveaways, tutoring, reading groups, and fun days in addition to meals.

"In my almost 30 years in this business, this program has shown more benefit to the development of the whole child as anything we do in education," said Harrisburg Unit 3 Superintendent Michael Gauch. "Providing nutrition that allows for our students to be fed throughout the summer is essential for our demographics here in Unit 3.

"We serve well over 10,000 meals to children and adults through the summer and we have come together as a community as part of this quality program. This has been so rewarding, and everyone across the state should work with their mayors, legislators, and nonprofits to support, or even create, the program in their own community." 

Families can find their nearest summer meals site by calling (800) 359-2163, texting "FoodIL" to 877-877, or visiting

Participation in one training session is required to become a new SFSP sponsor. Registration is available at

The new sponsor training workshops are scheduled 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for the following dates and locations:

Feb. 27 in Marion; March 13 in Alsip; March 27 in Fairview Heights; April 3 in Schaumburg; April 4 in Rockford; April 16 in Galesburg; May 16 in Springfield.

For more information, visit:

·         Spotlight on the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, which is an SFSP sponsor:  

·         Summer Food Service Program:  

·         Seamless Summer Option:  

·         Summer Meals newsletter for sponsors:

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