Full plates. Full Hearts. Full On.
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Lake Forest School Districts 67 and 115 and Lake Bluff School District 65 have introduced PROJECT F_LL, a tri-district food collection and distribution initiative addressing the growing issue of food insecurity in Lake County.
According to the Northern Illinois Food Bank, a member of Feeding America, hunger in the region is on the rise. In Lake County, about 6.9 percent of residents were considered food insecure in 2018. Due in part to the pandemic, that number climbed to nearly 12 percent at the end of 2020. In response, Districts 65, 67, and 115 students, staff, and families are partnering to establish ongoing collection and distribution of food for Lake County residents.
Project F_LL is the result of a collaboration among District students, staff, families, parent/guardian groups (APT, PTO), and school administration in Lake Bluff, Knollwood, and Lake Forest. The idea of the Tri-District Community Food Drive was sparked by Deer Path Middle School (DPM) sixth-grader Paul Helms."I wanted to get involved because I saw some shocking statistics,” says Paul. “One in four students in Lake County are experiencing food insecurity. I knew I couldn’t just let that number be, not when I had the chance to do something. So I offered to help." Then Paul enlisted one of his friends, fellow DPM sixth grader Brady Stadolnik, to design the Tri-District Community Food Drive’s heart-shaped logo. “We wanted to make a logo that shows two things: Food and Unity,” says Brady. “ That’s why it is a heart made of food.”
“Two students had a vision to bring hunger awareness in our school community,” says Deer Path Middle School fifth grade language arts and social studies teacher and food drive sponsor, Marissa Catanese. “It is exciting to see the idea grow to encompass three area school districts.”
F_LL Grocery Bags
Project F_LL will include a series of food drives as well as ongoing food distribution at Lake Forest and Lake Bluff schools and is open to all residents of Lake County. The food collection component of the program will kick off with a Tri-district Community Food Drive beginning the week of March 1. The public is invited to participate by contributing shelf-stable food items as well as monetary donations that will be used to purchase non-perishable food for Lake County families and raise awareness for the cause. It is estimated that it costs about $20 to “fill a grocery bag.''
The Districts set a goal of filling at least 200 bags every month with non-perishables during the Tri-district Community Food Drive.
Lake Forest and Lake Bluff schools, in partnership with Quest Food Management Services, are currently participating in a special meal pickup program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Breakfast includes an entree, fresh fruit, and milk; lunch includes a reheatable entree, fruit, vegetable, and milk. No registration, income verification, or ordering ahead are required. “Since its launch in November 2020, we have worked with the Lake Bluff and Lake Forest Schools to distribute more than 90,000 meals to our neighbors in Lake County,” says Quest Food Management Services President, Nicholas Saccaro. “There is clearly a need and we are pleased to help.”
This free meal program is available to all families with children 18 years of age and younger. Families are invited to pick up meal kits for each child in their family (see summer schedule below).
We are pleased to announce a new partnership with the Northern Illinois Food Bank intended to supplement our offerings with food boxes that contain fresh protein, dairy, and produce. These boxes (approximately 30-pounds each) are meant as family boxes and will be offered on an occasional basis as supply becomes available. Please watch our Project F_LL website for updates on F_LL family box availability.
For Additional Information
Nate Blackmer, Lake Bluff School District 65
Melissa Oakley, Lake Forest School Districts 67 and 115
Margi Hamilton, Quest Food Management Services