Lunch Bus Helps Kids Have a Hunger-Free Summer

I am thrilled to work with The Motherhood, ConAgra Foods, and Kid President this summer to help combat child hunger. This is a sponsored post. Also, how great is it that I can say I’m working with Kid President??

One of the reasons I was excited to work on ConAgra Foods’ Hunger-Free Summer Initiative with Feeding America was because I was paired locally with the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD). The GCFD was actually our charity partner for Chicago’s 2013 LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show and they received ten percent of our ticket proceeds. My co-producer, Tracey, had done some work with them the previous year and now it’s my turn! To be able to expand on that relationship means a lot to me, and after last week I do believe there is much more to come.

Last week I was invited to visit a park in Chicago Heights that just happens to be one of the daily stops for the GCFD’s “Lunch Bus” program. The Lunch Bus is a mobile meals program that delivers nutritious lunches to children under 18 years old in priority Cook County communities during the summer months.

Lunch Bus

Upon arriving at Smith Park I met up with Paul Morello, PR Coordinator of the GCFD. Paul told me a lot about the Lunch Bus program while we waited for the bus to arrive:

~The Lunch Bus (which is actually a refrigerated van) started rolling in 2010 and now serves three routes every weekday of the summer: south suburbs, city south, and city northwest. There are 21 sites in all and more than 4,500 meals are served weekly.

~The meals are prepared by Chicago’s Community Kitchens (CCK), the GCFD’s foodservice job training program.

~Kids who receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year are the ones who are targeted for the summer Lunch Bus program because without it, they might not eat during the day.

~Some of the sites have activities before the Lunch Bus arrives (provided by Americorp), which can get kids TO the sites so they’ll get lunch.

~The site I visited serves close to one hundred kids every day.

~A typical lunch includes a sandwich, a fruit or vegetable, and milk.

By far, the most staggering fact I learned from Paul that day was that only one in nine kids who are eligible for the Lunch Bus actually use the program due to a lack of awareness. That absolutely broke my heart and frankly, I can’t get it out of my head. That one fact made me even more thrilled to be participating in this campaign, because I am helping to increase awareness: maybe my writing this post will cause a few more people to learn that lunch is available for their kids, or kids they know. (And if YOU share this post? More reach! Hint, hint.)

As the arrival time approached, the line got longer and longer.

Lunch Bus Line

Finally, when the Lunch Bus arrived I heard some of the kids excitedly shout, “It’s here! It’s here!” In less than thirty minutes, ninety-one kids were provided with a lunch that included a mozzarella cheesestick, a blueberry muffin, a fruit cup, raisins, and milk, and the Lunch Bus was on its way to the next stop.

Lunch Bus Lunches

We have to do more, you guys. Eight out of nine eligible kids in the Chicago area are still going hungry.

Lunch Bus Kids

Things you can do (besides share this post, and I’m talking to you, Chicago-area friends!):

1. Check out Feeding America’s Childlike Summer Pinterest board for some great ideas on how you can help make this one a Hunger Free Summer.

2. View, like or share Kid President’s new video to raise awareness for kids who are at risk of hunger this summer and help make kids’ summers “awesome!” Every time you take one of these actions, the ConAgra Foods Foundation will donate the monetary equivalent of one meal to the nation’s leading hunger-relief organization, Feeding America, up to two million meals.* (And if you viewed it when I posted it a few weeks ago? Please watch again! Easy peasy!)

3. If you’re in the Chicago area, you can text FOODIL to 877877 or (no matter where you live) download the Range app to get a list of feeding sites near you.

4. And if you have young kids? I have another idea:

*For every view, like or share of this Kid President video recorded on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Google+ from May 22, 2014 through July 31, 2014, the ConAgra Foods Foundation will donate 11.1¢, the cost for Feeding America to provide one meal through its network of local food banks. Minimum donation of 10,000 meals ($11,111). Maximum donation of two million meals ($222,000). Valid in U.S. only.

The hunger problem isn’t going to end tomorrow, but every time someone contributes their time, money, or food donations, it can get a little better….even if it’s one kid at a time. Let’s do this.