Hungry kids in the summer

Chicago Sun-Times: For kids, summer is a time to relax. But for many of the 288,000 children in Cook County who qualify for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school, summer leaves them on edge. For the next three months, they can’t always be sure where their next meal will come from or, for that matter, whether it will be adequately nutritious.

In Cook County, 860,670 people — including 262,240 children — are “food insecure,” meaning they are uncertain where they will find their next meal, according to a recent survey by Feeding America. That’s an increase of 60,000 people since 2010.

Families with grocery budgets stretched to the limit typically find it tough to pay for those additional meals each day that CPS had provided. And while CPS runs a summer program, Safe Haven, that provides activities and healthy meals for many children, it falls woefully short of meeting the need.

Fortunately, the Greater Chicago Food Depository is tackling the problem as well. Partnering with summer youth programs, such as those of the YMCA, the Food Depository will provide free meals for children 18 and under at 70 “Kid’s Caf s” at locations such as churches, schools and community centers.

In the meantime, though, the number of folks who depend on the depository is likely to increase because the federal food stamp program is about to take a budget hit. The Senate recently approved $4 billion in cuts over 10 years. And while conservative House Republicans failed to pass a more severe cut of $20 billion, the House has yet to settle for the Senate trims.

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