Friday, September 25, 2015

The 1 in 5: Child Nutrition Reauthorization update

A child eats a meal at a Kids Cafe in Pilsen.
“To me, this is a moral imperative. All children should have the food they need.”

Michele Zurakowski is passionate about feeding children. She’s a Greater Chicago Food Depository Champion Advocate and the executive director of the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry, a Food Depository partner agency.

“We have to make sure that we feed the children who are going to be the future of our country,” she said.

Michele has been to Washington, D.C. and Springfield a number of times to advocate for children’s programs. Most recently, she attended Lobby Day with the Food Depository in May and went to Washington in March.

In Washington, she was part of a group advocating for a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization, which funds children’s programs including school breakfast, lunch and summer meal programs, as well as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization is set to expire September 30. Michele knows the impact those programs have, as half of the households the pantry serves includes a child.

“I see people coming to the pantry who are trying to do everything they can to make things right for their family and it’s motivating,” she said. “Without programs like school breakfast and lunch it would be hard for families.”

The U.S. Senate recently postponed a discussion on its version of the bill and the U.S. House has yet to announce plans for a Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill.

In the meantime, the Food Depository is advocating for the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act and the Summer Meals Act. These bills include priorities that could be incorporated into the final Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

If the House and Senate don’t approve a bill by September 30, the deadline to reauthorize the legislation could be extended to October 31.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The 1 in 5: A summer of feeding children

Itzel, Julian and their mother, Blanca, at the Resurrection Project Lunch Bus stop in Pilsen.

Every weekday this summer, just after 1 p.m., the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Lunch Bus pulled up to a church painted with vibrant murals in Pilsen. Some days, nearly 100 children anxiously waited as a daily ritual unfolded.

A volunteer set up a table. A door swung open. A smiling AmeriCorps member begins to distribute the meals and milk. The Lunch Bus has arrived.

Nine-year-old Itzel, her 2-year-old brother Julian and their mother Blanca were there nearly every day this summer.

“Everything is so expensive so this helps,” said Blanca. “We have to keep things tight right now.”

Blanca is currently unemployed, but her husband is working.

“His income just isn’t enough for us,” she said.

The children ate nutritious meals at the Lunch Bus stop, but Itzel’s favorite part about the Lunch Bus isn’t a specific food.

“Just having the lunch is my favorite part,” she said.

Scenes similar to this one occurred at 21 Lunch Bus stops each day this summer. In total, the Lunch Bus distributed approximately 42,900 meals. And, through all the Food Depository’s summer meal programs, 600,000 meals were delivered throughout Cook County – the organization’s largest-ever response to summer hunger.

The Food Depository’s summer hunger response would not be possible without the funding allocated by the Child Nutrition Reauthorization – a federal bill that funds children’s programs throughout the country. This legislation expired at the end of September. The Food Depository continues to advocate for a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization that helps ensure children have the food they need to grow up healthy. Learn how to make a difference at