How do you get kids to eat carrots and broccoli with the same gusto they attack sweets and chips?
The city of Elgin hopes that The OrganWise Guys program -- which features a cast of characters such as Peter Pancreas, Luigi Liver and The Kidney Brothers -- will do the trick as part of this year's free summer lunch program for kids 18 and younger.
"We're coming at it from an education standpoint," Parks and Recreation Department Director Randy Reopelle said, "to help the kids understand why they should eat vegetables instead of Cheetos for lunch."
The lunch program, coordinated by the department, will be offered starting Monday, June 8, through Aug. 15 at 10 sites throughout Elgin. The food is provided by the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which receives federal funding for it.
An integral part this year will be The OrganWise Guys educational program, whose motto is, "Empowering kids to be healthy and smart from the inside out," said Maryann Kuhn, marketing contractor for the department.
Four key components -- fiber, low fat, water and exercise -- are taught through puppets whose organs can be "pulled out" for show and tell, Kuhn explained.
"For example, if they don't want to eat carrots," Kuhn said, "they understand more about how these foods are affecting these specific parts of the body."
The goal of the summertime meal program is to ensure kids who get free or reduced-cost meals during the school year still get nutritious meals when school is out, said Erik Jacobsen, Northern Illinois Food Bank's communications manager. The meals include whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables whenever possible, and meet guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said.
The Food Bank, which supplies summertime meals through more than 100 sites in 13 counties in northern Illinois, served more than 283,000 meals last year, Jacobsen said. This year, the meals are supplied by a Joliet-based food service vendor contracted after the food bank solicited bids, he said.
The summer lunch program operates 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the following locations: Eastside Recreation Center, 1080 E. Chicago St.; Salvation Army, 316 Douglas Ave.; Izaak Walton Center, 899 Jay St.; Holy Trinity Church, 357 Division St.; Harriet Gifford Elementary School, 240 S. Clifton Ave.; Clifford/ Owasco Park, 825 Clifford St.; Cornerstone Park, 1540 Mulberry Lane; Clara Howard Park, 448 Fremont St.; Kiwanis Park, 259 National St.; and St. Francis Park, 277 Jefferson Ave.
Additionally, the four park locations also offer drop-in playgrounds from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for kids 6 to 12.
To find out about free summer meal locations elsewhere, call (800) 359-2163 or text "food" to 877-877.