- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plans to visit a Chicago school and talk about healthy summer meals.

Vilsack is scheduled to make the visit Thursday to James Otis World Language Academy on Chicago’s West Side. Officials say he’ll discuss the healthy summer meal program and its importance to Chicago-area children.

The Summer Food Service Program provides low-income children with meals after the regular school year ends. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Illinois ranks 39th nationally in program participation.

The USDA says Illinois had about 1,600 summer feeding sites last year. The agency hopes to increase that by 10 percent.

The agency also says that 74 percent of Illinois students receive free or reduced-price lunches. However, only 11.4 percent of eligible students receive meals during the summer.

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