Elmhurst Kiwanis to make sure kids of federal workers still get lunch - Chicago Daily Herald

When paychecks for federal employees don't come Friday, their kids will still get a nutritious meal at school.

The Kiwanis Club of Elmhurst will cover lunch expenses for the kids of

any family feeling the pinch of the government shutdown.

The club is prepared donate whatever is needed to make sure every student gets lunch.

"We started this about 10 years ago, during the recession, when we learned kids who didn't have lunch money were going without lunch," said Rich Rosenberg of the program the club calls Food for Thought.

A longtime member of the Kiwanis Club of Elmhurst, Rosenberg says, "The circumstances with the government have changed the game. Funds might not be available for lunch money."

"The Kiwanis Club of Elmhurst saw a community need and responded, which is just what Kiwanis clubs do," said Stan Soderstrom, executive director of Kiwanis International. "Kids need Kiwanis to look out for them and help meet their needs."

Elmhurst is a western suburb of Chicago, near O'Hare International Airport, a busy passenger and freight hub where federal employees work in a variety of roles, such as TSA agents, FAA controllers and cargo inspectors. "We're 22 miles west of Chicago, with a lot of commuters," Rosenberg said.

The Kiwanis club's annual pancake breakfast raises $9,000 to $12,000 annually to cover the lunch project and other projects that help kids. The project costs $1,500 to $2,000 yearly.

"We figure we provide 250 meals every semester, maybe 500 meals annually. We have no idea who the children are, and they are only told that the money was provided by the Kiwanis Club of Elmhurst," he said.

Rosenberg said the school's social workers help identify children who could benefit from the free lunch.

"This in no way replaces federal support or food stamps," he said. "We just serve kids whose mom or dad may be short for a one reason or another. The kid walks through the lunch line like every other child."

"Food insecurity is a real factor in many communities. Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 and York High School are fortunate to have great partners like the Elmhurst Kiwanis Club to fill in the gaps," said Bev Redmond, District 205 executive director of communications and PR. "The Food for Thought program helps eliminate hunger as a barrier to learning, allowing students to focus on getting a great education."

When Rosenberg was a part-time teacher at the high school, he learned firsthand how teachers helped kids who didn't have lunch money.

"Snack companies used to donate outdated merchandise to the schools, and teachers could provide that and a bottle of water to kids who didn't have lunch money," he said. "When laws changed, kids would be forced to ask another student to share a lunch, or sometimes teachers would help with personal funds. Our club started Food for Thought to fill in the gap."

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