Paul Sassone: For some, new school year means more to eat

The beginning of a new school year means many things.

To some kids, it’s an exhilarating new challenge. To others, it’s a too-soon end to summer fun.

While for some kids, a new school year means they will get enough to eat.

There are approximately 800,000 people in Cook County who are considered food insecure. That is, they don’t always have enough to eat. The Greater Chicago Food Depository estimates that 37 percent of this number are children under 18. Nine percent are kids under 5.

It is estimated 22.7 percent of all Illinois children are food insecure.

There are programs, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to provide free or reduced-cost meals to kids at school.

A problem arises when kids are on summer break and can’t receive meals at school.

Locally, the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry addressed that problem this summer by providing free lunches to kids.

The pantry works with the West Cook YMCA and the Summer Food Service Program (administered by the Illinois State Board of Education), to provide the free and nutritious lunches.

Meals are served from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the YMCA, 255 S. Marion St., Oak Park.

The program will stop for this year on Aug. 20, near the date school gets underway.

Both Oak Park Elementary School District 97 and River Forest Elementary School District 90 offer free or reduced-cost meals to eligible students.

To be eligible, children and their families must meet guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

To find out more about these programs, contact District 97 in Oak Park at 708-524-3019, or visit www.op97.org. In River Forest, call District 90 at 708-771-8282, or visit www.district90.org.

To find out more about the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry’s summer meals program, call the pantry at 708-386-1324, or visit oprffoodpantry.org.

Learning happens better when kids are able to think about their lessons and not about how hungry they are.

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