As the weather heats up, children are spending their summer vacation burning off energy and working up an appetite. But for many of these children, a healthy lunch is not an affordable option. When school lets out for the summer, many of the 31 million children who have their school lunches provided by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) are left without access to consistent, nutritious meals.
In June 2010, the Greater Chicago Food Depository addressed this void head on by creating the Lunch Bus. The bus delivers free boxed lunches to 21 sites on three different routes throughout Cook County, Ill., each weekday.
Currently in its third year, the Lunch Bus delivers 3,300 meals each week to low income communities in which at least half of the community’s children come from families with an income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. This data is according to the Running on Empty hunger study, which identified underserved, low-income communities with high food insecurity.
The Lunch Bus is part of the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which, like its school year counterpart NSLP, provides free or reduced price nutritious meals to children 18 years old and younger from families with incomes below various percentages of the poverty level.
Implementing SFSP presents unique challenges because children are dispersed throughout the community instead of being centralized in schools. Coordinators must find safe and central locations to distribute meals or develop creative delivery strategies, such as the Lunch Bus, to serve communities with limited transportation access.
The map below, created in the Community Commons map room, combines the distribution and concentration of students eligible for NSLP with the distribution of poverty in Cook County and makes locating high need communities much more precise. The Food Depository used a similar data layering strategy to locate target communities for their delivery routes.
Interested in starting a similar program in your area? Use the Community Commons map room to locate communities in need.