Wauconda volunteers feeding hungry kids over summer vacation

  • Elvia Morales, left, eats lunch with her children Kevin, Ariday and Yahir on Friday at Osage Park in Wauconda. Community volunteers are providing free lunches to kids at the park on weekdays this summer.

      Elvia Morales, left, eats lunch with her children Kevin, Ariday and Yahir on Friday at Osage Park in Wauconda. Community volunteers are providing free lunches to kids at the park on weekdays this summer. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/15/2018 8:42 PM

Community and municipal leaders in Wauconda are teaming to provide free, healthy lunches to local kids this summer.

Volunteers with a group called the United Partnership for a Better Community serve lunch every weekday at Osage Park, 124 Osage St., to anyone 18 or younger who wants a meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Registration isn't required, and there's no paperwork for parents. Kids just need to show up and eat.

"We feed whoever needs to be fed," said co-organizer Tom Chrysler, the director of service and mission ministry for Wauconda's Messiah Lutheran Church.

The meals are provided by the Geneva-based Northern Illinois Food Bank. Costs are covered by the U.S. Agriculture Department's Summer Food Service Program.

Food insecurity is a problem for many children when school lets out for the summer. Kids who get free or discounted breakfasts or lunches at school lose that access to nutritious meals.

That's where the food bank and volunteers like those in Wauconda step in.

"We can't look away from this," said the Rev. Dawn Mass Eck of Messiah Lutheran Church, another co-organizer of the Osage Park lunch service. "I want to make sure the kids have nutritious meals over the summer."

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In addition to Messiah Lutheran, United Partnership includes representatives from the Wauconda Park District, the village's police and public works departments, other churches, the Wauconda Area Chamber of Commerce and other groups.

Volunteers serve lunch at Osage Park between noon and 1 p.m., typically feeding about 30 kids daily. A prepackaged meal typically consists of a sandwich, fresh fruit or vegetables and milk.

There were two options Friday: a turkey sandwich with watermelon cubes and vegetables on the side; or a bagel with cream cheese, a cheese stick and blueberries.

Elvia Morales and her three children -- Kevin, 9, Ariday, 7, and Yahir, 4 -- are regulars. The kids eat and then play at the park for a while.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Some of the things that they get are things that they usually don't eat at home, like salad," Morales said through an interpreter. "They really like it and are happy to come."

Hunger isn't limited to Wauconda, of course. The food bank will deliver meals to 130 sites in the Chicago area this summer, including ones in Mundelein, Round Lake Beach, Fox Lake, Palatine, Wheeling, Schaumburg, Carol Stream and Elgin.

Meals are served at parks, schools, libraries and other types of sites. Some offer lunch, some offer breakfast and some serve both meals.

Start and end dates vary by location, as do service times. Lunch will be served at Osage Park through Aug. 10.

"No child should go hungry, and the fact that we are able to do something about it is very rewarding," said Maria Weisbruch, executive director of the chamber of commerce. "Caring for your neighbor is what this community is all about."

For more information or to find the nearest Summer Food Service Program location, go to: fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.

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