Keeping Kids Well-fed This Summer

Jul 3, 2019

For children everywhere, the end of school brings the start of summer. For children from low-income families, it also brings a dangerous relationship with hunger.

Studies show that for every 100 Illinois students who receive a free lunch during the school year, less than 12 receive that lunch during the summer. That leaves these children vulnerable to the ill effects of hunger: impairment of language, motor skills, behavior and cognitive abilities.

Because The Salvation Army believes summer should be a time for kids to soar, not struggle, we offer several summer feeding programs to combat the dire statistics – thanks to our faithful Bed and Bread partners.

Feeding the Need

“The Salvation Army has long led the way to combat hunger. Throughout the division we operate food pantries in our corps, host holiday meals, deliver meals to seniors, feed the homeless and more,” said Captain Nikki Hughes, corps officer at The Salvation Army Adele and Robert Stern Red Shield Center in the Englewood neighborhood.

“At the Red Shield Center, we have a lunch program during the summer, which is a natural extension of our outreach and an important one to those children and families who turn to the school system for help during the rest of the year. Children should not go hungry just because school is out for the summer.”

After noticing that several of the children who attended their summer camps in previous years showed up hungry every day, the Red Shield staff decided to add free breakfasts this summer as well.

Red Shield Center summer feeding runs from July 1 through August 23. They serve breakfast from 10:15-10:45 a.m. and lunch is from 12-12:30 p.m.

Teach a Kid to Cook . . .

Likewise, The Salvation Army’s Freedom Center in West Humboldt Park offers hot lunches every Monday through Thursday for any child. And kids are always welcome at the meal they offer everyone after church service on Sunday.

For officers at the Freedom Center, battling hunger has been a priority ever since they learned that three-quarters of the people in their neighborhood are food insecure. That focus centered in on the children in their area when an elementary school principal told Major Nancy Powers, corps offer at the Freedom Center, that half of the third graders at the school take care of their siblings, often including meals.

Struck that “a child so young would have the responsibility of caring for their family,” Major Nancy started offering cooking classes for children in the Freedom Center kitchen. Near North Health Service Corporation and Northwestern Medicine make the children's classes possible by leading and funding the class, and providing all materials.

These popular kids’ cooking classes will be part of the Freedom Center’s day camp and teen camp this summer, equipping kids in their neighborhood to keep their families fed this summer.  

Ongoing Assistance

Meals and snacks are also an important part of many corps’ day camps and Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs throughout the summer. While the children participate in sports, arts and crafts, music, scouting, as well as learn Bible stories, they also receive the assurance of daily meals that often isn’t a given in the summer months.

For working parents trying to make ends meet, the Army’s summer programs help them keep their families fed. Without these free or low-cost summer programs, many parents have to cut back on their work hours or pay costly daycare fees, which cuts into their grocery budget. Sending kids to VBS or day camp gives working parents peace of mind that their kids are safe and fed and that the family budget isn’t taking a big hit in summer. 

The Army’s summer feeding programs are a complement to their food programs that run throughout the year. Our mobile feeding units make 25 stops throughout the city to provide hot meals for men, women, and families who find themselves spending their nights sleeping on the streets. These vehicles feed many more children in the summer months.

Additionally, 25 Army locations throughout the Chicagoland area operate food pantries year-round, offering bread, cereal, meat, and other household necessities to help families keep food on the table every day.


 Every kid deserves daily meals as well as fun
this summer. 

We couldn’t provide these wonderful summer programs and assistance without our Bed & Bread Club members.
Your help provides crucial services and enriching summer programs to kids in need. 

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Related Content: Hunger / Food / Feeding, Children / Youth, Programs / Services

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