In Carbondale, Illinois, it’s not just schools providing meals for kids during the pandemic.
Over the summer, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Illinois used their staff, budget, and a little help from No Kid Hungry to serve suppers to all interested kids in their community. This new evening meal program was established in addition to their pre-existing partnership with local school districts to serve lunches to children in need. According to Tina Carpenter, CEO of The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Illinois, early summer saw a staff stretched too thin and a budget burdened with PPE costs. The support from No Kid Hungry helped turn this around and provided the funding necessary to make suppers in Carpenter’s centers possible. Why are suppers important? Across the community, parents’ hours have been cut and others have lost their jobs entirely, leaving paychecks falling short and some pantries empty. By providing supper to these students, Carpenter and her team are working to fill that disparity in ways that parents are not always able to.
The collaboration between the school district and the Boys and Girls Clubs provides a safe space for children to do their remote work and get all the meals they need to learn, grow, and play. Though the logistical challenges are immense and keeping kids 6 feet apart is no easy task, the staff at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Illinois are working incredibly hard to provide a safe haven for kids with working parents.
As Carpenter reflected, she said, “This pandemic added an extra level of anxiety for young people. We had people with food insecurities before the pandemic. Families that struggled before, struggle even more now.” The Carbondale community has its share of challenges, but by serving 21,332 suppers during one of the most taxing summers in a century, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Illinois are working to ensure that child hunger is not one of them.