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Crystal Lake Free Summer Lunch program will continue despite COVID-19

Free lunches will be offered at Ladd Park beginning June 1

Crystal Lake's Free Summer Lunch program will continue this summer despite COVID-19 concerns, beginning June 1.

For the fifth summer in a row, Crystal Lake will offer free boxed lunches to any child younger than age 18 as part of a partnership with the Northern Illinois Food Bank, according to a news release.

"Because of the pandemic, I think there's going to be many more kids, many more people, that are going to have the need for food," longtime volunteer Kathy Sullivan said. "It's such a hard time right now and we're just glad that we're able to help."

The Free Summer Lunch program will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, starting June 1, and running through Aug. 14, according to the release. Lunches will be offered at Ladd Park, 521 Coventry Lane, in Crystal Lake.

On rainy days, lunches will be distributed at Vineyard Church at 7105 Virginia Road in Crystal Lake. There is no registration required to receive free lunches.

"It's going to look a little bit different this year because we can't do all of the activities that we normally do," Sullivan said.

Because of COVID-19 concerns, lunches will be offered through a drive-up service where volunteers will place the meals in each family's trunk for kids to enjoy at home, she said.

Additionally, the program's volunteers will wear face coverings in accordance with CDC guidelines, according to the release.

In past years, the program has hosted guest speakers, coordinated educational activities and offered resources from other agencies, Sullivan said. Those aspects of the program are cancelled for the time being.

"What we can do, we will do which is provide food for anybody that needs it," she said.

Sullivan said she and her husband have volunteered with the Free Summer Lunch program since its inception.

Last summer, volunteers gave away 1,665 meals, feeding about 33 children each day. Free lunches are offered to fill potential gaps in access to nutritional food while school is not in session, according to the release.

The Free Summer Lunch program is volunteer-led and is supported by the Crystal Lake Park District as well as Vineyard Church. The program is sponsored by the Northern Illinois Food Bank as part of its Summer Meal Program.

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