Catholic Charities partnered with Pepsico to create the pilot program that feeds more than 700 children daily at 18 locations.
A colorful Pepsico Food for Good Mobile meal van stopped in Wolfe Park Monday on the Far Southeast Side of Chicago. The van arrives daily to deliver nutritious, free lunches to the children who live in and around the park. Earlier they delivered breakfast.
The program is an extension of the federal government's food program for low income children.
Maria Rosas says if it were not for the mobile van her children would go hungry.
"We've talked to kids and parents who have told us that this is literally the only meal that the children will eat this day. Another really heartbreaking story…we talked to an apartment complex manager who told us that before we had started coming with our mobile meals they literally saw children digging through the dumpsters looking for food," said Amy Chen, Pepsico.
"They really out here early in the morning waiting for that lunch or breakfast," said Lilly Martin, community activist.
"This program is very important because children are in need of healthy meals, especially when school is out of session. The kids love it. Then we also provide additional enrichment activities where while the kids are here to eat, they are also doing activities and we get them to stay in the location," said Shelly Baldwin, Catholic Charities.
Staffed by Catholic Charities and Pepsico employees, the vans are accompanied by Chicago police. Everyone pitches in to engage the kids as they line up to get a free, nutritious meal and have fun at the same time.
"Pepsico's Food for Good initiative is focused on using the power of business to help solve social problems...We have products, capabilities, trucks and we have know how to really figure out how to get food to where kids are in need. We really hope we can inspire other companies to do the same thing," said Chen.
Mobile meals ends in September. Pepsico and Catholic Charities hope to make it an annual event.