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Glen Ellyn Public Library Serves Up Summer Meals for Hungry Kids

Category: GEPL News
Posted: July 24, 2017

By: Glen Ellyn Public Library

Susan DeRonne and Maria Dapkus serve prepackaged meals to children.Every weekday at noon during the summer, the first-floor meeting rooms at the Glen Ellyn Public Library turn into a café of sorts.

That’s where the Summer Meals program provides free boxed lunches for anyone 18 and under, helping to ensure that children who rely on the free or reduced-price lunch programs during the school year continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.

Sponsored by the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which provides the food, the library became a site for the Summer Food Service Program back in 2014. “One real benefit we noticed during that first summer was an immediate change in the behavior of the kids,” said Amy Waters, School Liaison. “The kids were more responsive, in a positive way. It’s become a great relationship builder.”

Meals are served on a first come, first served basis. Lunch guests need not show any identification. They may simply show up and request a boxed lunch. While lunches are available only to children aged 18 and younger, adults accompanying children may help themselves to uneaten food placed on the share table.

“Children participating in the program stop in for lunch before continuing with their summer sports routines,” said Waters. “Others remain at the library, where they either participate in additional programming or use the library’s many services.”

Amy Waters was instrumental in bringing the program to the library. The Glen Ellyn Public Library is one of a handful of public libraries in DuPage County participating in the program. Other Summer Food Service Program sites include churches, park districts and community centers.

In the first two weeks of the 2017 Summer Meals program, an average of 35 people per day ate lunch at the library. The number on any one day typically climbs when participants in the library’s Bus to Books program are in the building.

“We provide transportation to the library for groups of kids who may not have access and need additional reading support in the summer,” Waters said. On those days, 30 to 50 people come to the program.

The number of lunches delivered to the library is based on an estimate of need informed by past history. The portions and contents are closely government regulated and the procedures for storing and serving the lunches are carefully monitored. Training for library staff involved with administering the program is handled by The Food Bank.

The program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and is administered by the Illinois State Board of Education. Last year, the Northern Illinois Food Bank, through more than 120 summer youth program sites, served more than 280,000 summer meals to hungry children.

“We want people to know they are welcome to join us for lunch. We’re inviting the community to take advantage of this program,” Waters said.

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