In an effort to combat child food insecurity, the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library, 3541 Park Ave., is partnering with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to provide free nutritious lunches to children during the summer months.
Beginning on June 5, the program will offer free lunches Monday through Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at the library to all kids under 18 until Aug. 18. Outside of age, there will be no eligibility requirements to participate in the program.
Students who receive free or reduced-cost breakfast or lunch through their school can experience hunger during summer break since school resources are not available. This new partnership seeks to alleviate this lack of access to healthy food by offering a supplemental resource at an accessible location.
For some time before this summer, the library had hoped to partner with an agency that helps establish free lunch programs like the depository. However, relocation to the newly constructed library building and additional renovations after the July 2021 grand opening further delayed plans.
Now that the library staff has settled in and knows how to deliver services in the new facility, it was time to bring to fruition the free lunch initiative and serve as a community food resource, Library Director Kimberly Coughran said.
After reaching out to various food resources, the initial connection between the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the library was made by Lauren Bobysud, the library’s youth services manager, whom Coughran asked to monitor the lunch initiative.
The depository responded, and library staff members met with its personnel for an initial meeting about the program. Library managers will have an upcoming training about the specifics of carrying out the lunch initiative, Coughran said.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository, a nonprofit that receives some government funding, has been working to end hunger in Chicago and Cook County since 1978. According to data from its website, one in four children in Cook County are at risk of hunger, which the nonprofit fights by organizing food banks and advocating for legislation that addresses hunger.
Beyond partnering with organizations to supplement free lunch programs during the summer and feed families in Chicago and its suburbs throughout the year, the depository offers assistance in the SNAP/Link and Medicaid benefit application processes.
Once the partnership begins on June 5, the library will receive food deliveries from the depository in the mornings and refrigerate the lunches until distribution in the afternoon. The initiative will begin with 25 lunches, but the library can adjust that number based on demand, Coughran said.
The nutritious lunches will include a sandwich, fruit, and milk, and those participating in the program can choose to eat them in one of the meeting room spaces in the library or outside in the front plaza.
The library is thrilled to be able to meet potential need that may exist in the Brookfield community, Coughran said.
“We obviously are a resource for the community and look forward to being able to serve residents in this way, especially as some of the pandemic benefits that were available to families now have gone away,” Coughran said.
No lunches will be served on July 4 due to the holiday.