The Chicago Public Schools academic year is about to end, and Katherine R. Maehr, chief executive officer of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, says that will leave many families without access to a meal program for their children.
In Cook County, 21.1 percent of children 18 or younger experience food insecurity, which means they can't always be sure where their next meal is coming from, Maehr says. Another stat: The Food Depository maintains a rolling four-year window for comparison purposes, and it shows that the number of visits to food pantries is up 77 percent over four years ago.
In addition, a new report by the Food Research and Action Center indicates only 14.7 percent of eligible children are accessing free meals through summer programs.
"A lot of families don't realize there is a meal program out there," Maehr says. "The second reason is that, like many government programs, it is complicated."
Of the two, awareness is the larger issue, she says.
To help meet the need, the Food Depository is adding a third "lunch bus" route, which delivers meals to children. The buses deliver 700 meals per day, and are expected to deliver 34,000 by the end of summer.
For more information, the Food Depository has set up a website: SummerFoodIllinois.org.
Also, the 27th Annual Hunger Walk at Soldier Field will be held a week from Saturday.
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