A lot of summer programs are not taking place due to COVID-19. Some children depend on lunches from these programs. A northern Illinois church is making sure meals are still being provided this summer.
Vicki Boone is the summer lunch coordinator for First United Methodist Church in DeKalb. She said for the past eight summers children came to the church to eat. This year they’re grabbing lunch at the park.
“And so, we had set about planning to do lunch in the park this summer anyway,” she said. “Thinking we would have children eating on-site with us and you know, just be kind of having a good hour or two with kids around.”
She said the plan to move the program outside was because participation was dropping. This plan was put in place before COVID-19.
“Our sense was perhaps it was an issue of children being able to get to us from needing to find a location that was more safely walkable if parents were not at home,” she explained.
Boone said they have seen an increase in the number of children this year.
“We have a few children who ride up on their bicycles, who may not be in a mask but we make sure that we have everything bagged for them,” she said. “You know, extend our arm to hand it out and off they go.”
She said they’ve seen an average of 50 children a day compared to about 34 in previous years.
Boone is predicting that the number of children who come, will go up as some other lunch programs come to a close.
“The school district programs here in DeKalb are ending this Friday,” she said.
Boone also said First United Methodist provides snacks to the parents.
“That's one of the hallmarks of our program that's different,” she said. “We've always fundraised so that we can provide some food for the parents as well because hungry children often come with hungry parents.”
She pointed out that community donations are received through Give DeKalb County.
Boone said the church also works with other organizations to help provide the food.
Summer Lunch at the Park will be served through July 30. It takes place in the parking lot of Haish Gym in DeKalb, Mondays through Thursdays.
- Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It’s a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.