Indian Prairie District 204 continuing free meal service over summer
After providing roughly 147,000 breakfasts and lunches to students during the COVID-19 school shutdown, Indian Prairie Unit District 204 is not about to stop now.
The district will continue curbside pickup of grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches for any student who needs them throughout the summer at no cost to families. Families can pick up student meals at elementary schools throughout the district from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each weekday.
At the start of the school shutdown in March, the district of roughly 27,400 students was doling out about 500 meal packages each day, each containing one breakfast and one lunch. By the time the school year ended Wednesday, distribution had ramped up to 3,900 meals a day, said Ron Johnson, director of support services.
"During a typical school year, we ensure that students' nutritional needs are met," Johnson said. "With the closure of school buildings and the uncertainty for some families of where their next meal will come from, we wanted to ensure that our families' basic needs are being met during this unprecedented time. Simply, we all want to support our families however we can."
The district is reimbursed for the cost of the meals through the national school lunch and school breakfast programs.
Continuing to provide free meals during the summer was as obvious for the district as offering them was at the beginning of the shutdown, officials said. Both were moves Superintendent Karen Sullivan prioritized as she wraps up her last months leading the district before her retirement starts in July.
Families are asked to use a district form provided in an email to indicate when they anticipate needing meals. The district uses First Student buses and bus drivers to transport the meals to each of its 21 elementary schools. Johnson said the onset of summer is not likely to change the need for nutrition.
"We anticipate the current average daily meal packages distributed each day to remain stable over the summer with the potential to grow as families may experience hardships," he said.
Nearby Naperville Unit District 203 plans to continue meal distribution on a twice-weekly schedule to provide five days worth of meals each week through June 30. The district is exploring options to continue the service for the rest of the summer, spokeswoman Sinikka Mondini said.
The Illinois State Board of Education also is offering a Summer Food Service Program to provide healthy meals and snacks to children 18 and younger at hundreds of sites across the state. To find the nearest meal pickup site, call (800) 359-2163, text "FoodIL" to 877-877 or visit summermealsillinois.org.