Summer Lunch and Backpack Program

Summer Lunch Program

For families in poverty, the start of summer can mean more than warmth and sunshine; it can mean hunger. In south Waukegan, a large percentage of our families are classified as ‘in poverty’ – equivalent to a family of 4 with income of $24,300 or less. All of the students qualify for free breakfast and lunch at school throughout the academic year. When summer break starts, the nutritious meals at school end and hunger begins for many kids. This is where Beacon Place steps in. The Summer Lunch Bunch Program is designed to provide lunch and day camp activities for children ages 4-18 who rely on a subsidized meal during regular school year.

From June through August each summer, children can come to Beacon Place to enjoy a nutritious meal on site, and then stay for an afternoon of traditional ‘day camp’ activities including games, crafts, sports, computers, music and more. Fresh air and outdoor exercise are an important part of a healthy life for kid and Beacon Place provides a safe place to play and just be a kid.

“A lot of parents don’t let their kids go to the park or play outside. At Beacon Place, I see parents bring their kids because they know the kids are safe and will have a good lunch. I think Beacon Place has changed this part of our neighborhood.”

– Juan, age 17

While the children are busy, parents stay and enjoy programs on nutrition, health, overall wellness, and parent support in our MOMS Program. The Summer Lunch Bunch program is held every Monday and Thursday, from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. In addition, as a part of our Backpack Program each Thursday, every child leaves with a backpack of food including enough food for six meals on the weekend including whole fresh fruits and vegetables. At the end of the summer, the child receives a backpack to keep, filled with supplies to start the school year.

To make all of this happen, an amazing force of high school, college and adult volunteers ensure that there is a camper/volunteer ratio of approximately 5:1. Special activities and events such as carnival day, petting zoo, reptile rampage, art in the park, and safety day, turn our campus into a place of summer fun for more than 300 kids each year.

My favorite thing about Beacon Place is having fun and making crafts with all my friends in the neighborhood. My sister, brother and cousins come here too because we know it’s safe and that we can play outside. – Stephanie, Age 10

Want to have some fun this summer, then come volunteer with us? 

Register here to volunteer this summer!

In 2016

  • 3000 lunches served
  • More than 300 different children
  • 220 high school/college students volunteered nearly 5,000 hours
  • More than 10% of our volunteers come from the Beacon Place neighborhood


Backpack Program

Hunger is a constant companion for many kids in our neighborhood and sometimes lunch at Beacon Place two days a week is not enough. So, the Beacon Place Backpack Program, delivered in partnership with the Northern Illinois Food Bank, provides healthy and nutritional food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, for up to six meals for children to take home and enjoy over the weekend all summer long.

At the beginning of the summer, each child who attends the Summer Lunch Program receives a new backpack that becomes their own to use each week. All backpacks are tagged and identified with the child’s first name and a backpack program ID number. The children are responsible for returning their backpacks clean and empty each Thursday to be refilled. At the end of the summer, each child then gets a new backpack of their own, filled with supplies, to keep and use during the new school year

In 2016

  • 1,600 backpacks went home with kids filled with food for 9,600 meals for the weekend
  • More than 9,000 pounds of food including fresh whole fruits and vegetables were distributed