Hanover Township free children's summer lunch program to return Monday
After being shelved last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hanover Township's summertime children's free lunch program is making a return Monday.
Township officials said the "grab and go" lunch program had been a staple program of the township's general assistance mission for "many years" before it was put on hiatus in 2020 to prevent spreading the virus.
Anyone 17 and younger can pick up a lunch. Officials said there's no need to register, pay a fee or show identification. Lunches will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Astor Avenue Community Center in Hanover Park at 7431 Astor Ave., which also houses the community food pantry.
"During the summer it can be a little bit harder for (some kids) to know where they're getting their food from," said Tom Kuttenberg, director of community and government relations at Hanover Township.
Kuttenberg said the township has worked to get word out through its newsletter, social media and through community partners.
The township is prepared to offer 25 lunches daily but can ask for more depending on demand. A total of 991 free lunches were served in the summer of 2019.
The township is partnering with the Northern Illinois Food Bank to provide the meals. It's all part of the USDA's Summer Food Service Program offered through the Illinois State Board of Education.
"(The SFSP) really helps bridge a gap between the children who rely on the national school lunch program during the school year," said Jessica Willis, a child nutrition program manager at the food bank.
Willis said the free lunch program helps provide access points for children to get the nutrition that they need. Since the pandemic, that need has grown "exponentially," she said.
The free lunch program at Hanover Township will run through Aug. 13.