Summer Meals rock in Rock Island

Thirteen years ago, staff at Church of Peace in Rock Island began working on the Summer Meals Program with just one site. This year there are 29 sites and they are still growing.

Children enjoying lunch at one of Church of Peace's 29 Summer Meals sites.

Children enjoying lunch at one of Church of Peace’s 29 Summer Meals sites.

1 in 5 children in Rock Island is at risk of hunger. Nora Steele, Summer Meals Program Sponsor, knows that reality perhaps better than anyone. “The elementary school 2 blocks from the church has 98.9% free and reduced-priced meal eligibility. All the schools in the city of Rock Island are over 50% eligibility.”

In many households, healthy options are limited, or parents are at work during the day. “I work a 12 hour day” says one mother, “and do not allow my children out by themselves. With [Church of Peace] picking them up and bussing them to the site, I was able to relax knowing they would have meals they enjoyed and were good for them.”

The summer meals program offers breakfast and lunch at many of their sites and also has some supper programs. The program serves approximately 1,600 children per day, or 34 percent of the city’s eligible children, which is well over the state’s participation rate of 14 percent.

According to Carlos Jiminez, site manager at the Martin Luther King Center, “Some of these kids will not eat a hot meal throughout the whole day. It is important for us to serve breakfast and lunch and to have healthy options.”

The community garden at Shiela Solomon's Summer Meals site thrives with the help of neighborhood kids who come to each lunch at the site everyday.

The community garden at Shiela Solomon’s Summer Meals site thrives with the help she receives from neighborhood children during lunchtime.  

But, it’s not just about distributing meals. Sheila Solomon leads the Community Garden project in Rock Island and has provided two plots for children participating in Summer Meals Programs to plant and grow their own vegetables.

This gives children more motivation to try new vegetables that show up in their lunches when they have seen them growing right at their lunch site.

“The kids are excited every day – they come early to help set up and then they garden and eat.”

Church of Peace’s Summer Meals Program serves a critical need in Rock Island, and they plan to expand, continuing to fulfill their mission of ending childhood hunger in their community.

What is SFSP?

Welcome to Summer Meals Illinois’ blog! We are so excited that you are here. You may be thinking: “Free Meals? No way!” Yes way. SFSP stands for Summer Food Service Program and it provides free meals over the summer to kids less than 18 years of age. A community is eligible for an SFSP site if more than 50% of the population in that area is over the poverty line. At meal sites, children can receive a healthy meal in a safe place to eat and build friendships. Food, Friends, and Fun!  Many sites also offer educational activities and games. Continue reading

How does SFSP work?

It seems too good to be true- where does the money for Free Summer Meals come from? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds the Free Summer Meals program. The program was created in 1968 to help feed children over the summer.

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Food for Thought

Summer is a difficult time for hungry children in our community. When school is out, children enrolled in the free or reduced price meal program lose two meals per day. This need is significant, but many organizations respond with programs and partnerships that distribute nutritious food and increase awareness of summer feeding programs.

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Parents go door-to-door to raise awareness for summer programs

One of the main roadblocks to feeding hungry children during the summer is awareness, as families in need often don’t know about the programs available to them. To address this issue, the Food Depository partners with Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), a group centered on family-focused community organizing.

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Community Atmosphere in Riverton

Riverton is a community where a retiree loads up to six children in her car to get them to the nearest free meal. It’s a community where the police department delivers food for kids every summer day. A community where a preschool teacher has taken it upon herself to start a meal program. And Riverton is a community where 80 to 90 children now receive nutritious meals and activities daily.

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Our Partners

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