Get Your Fill of Food and Fun
The Y believes that children deserve every opportunity possible to learn, grow, and thrive, and the meals we serve every summer help more children get the nutrition they need to be healthy and strong.
When the final school bells ring and summer break begins, millions of kids are at risk of going hungry. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 30 million children receive free or reduced-cost meals through the National School Lunch Program, but only 2.3 million of these kids continue to receive meals through the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program.
As part of our commitment to keeping kids healthy, the Y and Walmart Foundation are partnering to provide 4 million meals and snacks to 100,000 kids and teens this summer. Youth between ages 5-18 can participate in the program to get their “fill of food and fun” – receiving nutritious meals and snacks, while also enjoying recreational and learning activities to keep their bodies and minds active.
The Y’s summer food programs will be available at nearly 800 sites in communities large and small. To participate, see the locator map to find a program near you. And, check out our blog (coming soon) to learn more about our summer food programs at Ys nationwide.
By: Laura Waldrum
The YMCA of Greater San Antonio’s Summer Food Program provides summer meals to over 2,230 children at 12 sites.
Ray is one of 260 children part of the Walzem Family YMCA ‘s Summer Food Program. Ray has had a blast this summer learning new things and making new friends. His favorite part of camp is playing games in the gym. As part of our Summer Day Camp program, we offer 30 minutes of physical activity to all our children. “If there are any kids out there that wants something fun to do during the summer, they should come to the Y,” says Ray. “You get to have fun with your friends, eat healthy food and play fun games!”
Gabby is also a camper at the Walzem Family YMCA’s Summer Day Camp. Gabby loves day camp because she is able to meet new friends, play fun games in the gym and do arts and crafts activities. The morning this photo was taken her group made papier mâché dinosaur eggs.
For Gabby, the highlight of day camp is the healthy, nutritious food she receives. “We don’t have a lot of food at home,” Gabby says. “Here we have a really nice breakfast, a snack and a warm lunch. The pizza and burritos are awesome!”
By: Gail Klimas
Our Summer Food Program serves over 3,000 daily meals at 23 sites throughout Boston. In local Y’s, community centers, parks and beaches - we are doing our part to provide nutritious food, activities, and games. The YMCA of Greater Boston is also addressing summer learning loss. We hold summer programs in several teen centers, which offer free evening programs that encourage local youth to socialize in a safe environment.
The core of our Summer Food Program is located at the East Boston YMCA. This site provides daily meals at the Bremen Street Park. We also provide meals at Constitution Beach, further up the road. All of our sites are open to new comers as well as returning members. Each meal we serve meets standards set and approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and YMCA of the USA’s Healthy Living department. In all of our programs we promote the National Afterschool Association Standards for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA).
At the Constitution Beach of East Boston, six year old Lizbeth Careamo (accompanied by her older sister and mother) comes to enjoy the healthy meals we provide. When asked why she likes the Summer Food Program she responded, “I get to come and eat great food with my friends and family! I get to eat healthy every day”.
At the Greater Boston YMCA we are working hard to develop new partnerships, particularly in areas of the city that are classified as food deserts (areas where there is poor access to healthy foods). We recently developed a new community partnership with the Eritrean Community Center which is located in one of Boston’s food deserts.
We hope to expand our Summer Food Program by connecting with more community partners; we want to ensure that every child leads a healthy, active life.
By: Nicole Lowe and Brooke Kircher
Meal Outreach and Positive Role Models
As part of our Summer Food Program, we run a meal outreach program that feeds children from low income housing facilities in Lake City. We pick up children and bring them to our camp. It is truly rewarding to see these children having fun. Through our Summer Food Program, they come to learn that they have positive role models right by their side.
By: Nicole Lowe
We want our kids to be physically active this summer. At our Matt Griffin site, soccer games bring our community together: staff and children divide up into teams and parents are poised at the sidelines. Every kick, goal and show of sportsmanship is cheered and celebrated. The smiles on the children’s faces could not get any bigger.
One child said to me, “this is the best place in the world! I try my best and everyone yells, yeah! I have never been good at sports, now I know, I am not good…I’m great!” That is what it is all about- giving children what they need to thrive, flourish, and succeed on their path. Truly amazing!
By: Nicole Lowe
The city of Algona, where our Y is located, is small. With a population of 3,074 residents, a little under half of our residents are children under 18. Getting a nutritious lunch during the summer is difficult for them. In partnership with the city, our Y offers healthy lunches to children and organizes fun, exciting activities.
During the first week of our Summer Food Program, kids planned and chose the activities they wanted to do. The list had over 75 activities!
Here is a quick snapshot of the water balloon day held at our Y, when temperatures reached 90 degrees! Playing water balloon toss with 60 children, most of them 6 years and younger, was challenging and fun. Despite the hot weather, the kids hung in there, changing up their tosses and working in groups. The activity taught us to collaborate and work in teams.
At Algona, we also run a library. Each child gets to choose a book and take it home for the weekend. The library gives children the opportunity to read, explore and learn during the summer.
Through our Summer Food Program, we provide children with a fun, healthy and educational summer!
By: Whitney Johnson
The Hopkins County Family YMCA offers a free Summer Food Program thanks to a significant grant from the Walmart Foundation, ensuring that fewer children go hungry this summer. While more than 30 million children in low-income communities receive free or reduced-cost meals during the school year, only 2.3 million of these same children have access to free meals during the summer school break.
Combining food and fun, our program provides nutritious meals and snacks as well as runs activities to keep kids’ minds and bodies active. Our Summer Food Program is from May 22 to August 6 and serves children 18 years and younger. The Hopkins County Family YMCA serves breakfast, lunch, and supper at various locations in Madisonville, White Plains and Dawson Springs.
To reach more kids who may be unable to visit the Y, the Hopkins County Family YMCA is taking our Summer Food Program out into the community by van, reaching six remote areas in Madisonville: Madisonville Apartments, Rosenwald Playground, Pride Avenue Playground, Carter's Chapel Church, Pennyrile Apartments, and Chateau Trailer Park. Approximately 165 meals are served each day on the mobile route.
During the school year, Hopkins County Family YMCA will also serve healthy meals and snacks in its afterschool program to provide kids with nourishment and academic enrichment.
By: Jennie Melde (Childcare Operations Director)
This summer, the La Cross Area Family YMCA will serve over 40,500 meals. This takes teamwork, coordinating logistics, excellent communication, and a great plan. Our Y is committed to feeding kids healthy meals throughout the summer. Not only do we want children to be full and well-nourished, but also we want to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need. This is why we are committed to serving fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal.
Our Y purchases all food from a distributer. After they deliver the food, we coordinate sorting, packing, and delivery of meals to 11 offsite locations. Thanks to our wonderful food service team the food is delivered, sorted, packed, and distributed to sites every Monday.
Our menus include a four-week cycle menu that provides a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and protein foods. Three of our locations are offer a “super snack,” where our children receive five food groups instead of two. Through our super snack, they remain well-nourished after their entire day of activities and go home with full bellies. For some of our children, their last meal of the day is the one they eat through our Summer Food Program.
A mother in some of our neediest locations said she was so thankful that her child could attend our program, receive meals, and have a full day of activity. She can now go to work and start earning money to move out of the Salvation Army, where she and her child currently live. This summer, we will impact 750 children and their families.
Staying Fit While Eating Healthy- Swimming Classes at the La Crosse Area Family YMCA
At the La Crosse Area Family YMCA, we believe that every child deserves a healthy, active summer. All our programs are committed to implementing the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards. In addition to our Summer Food Program, we have incorporated swim lessons into our summer health activities. Here is what one mom has to say about her son starting swim lessons at a new school site this summer:
“Sam loves it there. He’s doing awesome with the swim lessons (and that’s huge… this is a kid who would not really ever get in the water, but, Tuesday night he told me he was floating on his front and back, swimming with two noodles) and just having a great time during the day. You have awesome staff there. We were thrilled when we found out Joe (a Y staff member) would be there. It helped immensely to have him there that first day when Sam was really unsure. I told Sam, ‘I give him a lot of credit for walking into that situation, not knowing a soul and just getting right in there.’”
By: Emily Broadrick and Jessica Chadwell
In January of 2011, the Chattanooga YMCA began a new program designed to bring nutrition education and physical activity to daycare facilities within our community. From its small beginning, serving nine daycares twice a week, the Mobile Fit Team has grown to take on a much larger role.
A typical routine as a Mobile Fit Team member begins at 6:00 a.m., prepping meals to be served at different sites throughout the day. By the end of their shifts, individual members prepare an average of 250 meals. In all, our team prepares a total of 2000 meals a day.
After food prep, the Mobile Fit team member creates an activity plan that includes physical activity and nutrition education for the two to three feeding sites they will visit that day.
Teams arrive at their sites with coolers of meals in tow. They begin with some physical activity, using the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) curriculum. The staff leads non-elimination CATCH games that create an inclusive environment so that all participants feel included and successful regardless of age and athletic ability.
Following the games, the meals are served to any child under the age of 18 wanting to participate. During lunch, the children are given a short nutrition lesson. Following lunch and cleanup, the staff proceeds to the next feeding site, starting the process again.
Over the course of the summer, our staff will become familiar and dependable faces throughout the communities of Chattanooga. At the end of ten weeks of Mobile Fit and the Summer Food Program, rewarding relationships are formed between our staff and children. These bonds leave a lasting impact on the hearts of everyone involved. There is no greater reward than knowing that you have made a difference for a child in need.
By: Emily Broadrick and Jessica Chadwell
In early May, planning began for the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga’s Summer Food Program. We set out with the goal of surpassing last summer’s success of serving almost 40,000 meals to children in the Chattanooga community.
There is a need for nutritious, free meals for children in our community. We run food sites at parks, recreation centers, subsidized housing, YMCA day camps, sports ministries, and school tutoring programs.
All breakfasts, lunches, and snacks meet or exceed USDA requirements of a complete meal. They also contain a nutrition fact related to one of the items in the meal. The menu runs on a ten-day cycle with healthy and creative entrées such as a “Build Your Own Pizza” and a “Summer Chicken Salad.” Vegetarian options are also incorporated in the menu cycle with alternatives like a black bean salad or a soy-butter sandwich.
Since most operating sites are located in Chattanooga’s Food Desserts, new foods are introduced to children every day. At the beginning of the summer, the kids were selective with what they would actually eat from their brown bags. With time, we have seen once picky eaters become more adventurous in trying new foods. The ultimate goal of our program is to provide sustenance to hungry children. Of course, we are also overjoyed to see a child choose a banana over a bag of potato chips. One of our goals this summer is to teach and encourage healthy food choices among children who participate in our Summer Food Program.
The YMCA Chattanooga Summer Food Program is proud to say that, by the end of the summer, we will have provided almost 100,000 meals throughout our community.
By: Michele O’Brien
YMCA of Cape Cod has many members who are part of the "Two Bite Club,” where kids try out and experience new foods. Through the Summer Food Service Program, we have a great opportunity to expose kids to healthy and new foods that they may not receive at home. It has been a lot of fun too!
We added some cool, new healthy foods to the menu. The kids weren't sure how to eat kiwi – “the strange, fuzzy, and round fruit”- so we served the kiwi with a sheet of options on how to eat it. They loved cutting it in half and scooping out the insides to gobble down! When we served hummus for the first time, a lot of the kids didn't even want to try it. We gave them a pouch of baby carrots and dared them to try it. Shortly after, they saw hummus on the menu again and started chanting, "Hummus cups! Hummus cups!" and dug right in. Hummus has now become a favorite item.
Thinking outside the box is challenging but is necessary. Three summers ago, we were given a great opportunity through a USDA grant. The Home Delivered Meals (HDM) program is the product of that grant, a little creative thinking, and a lot of hard work. The program is similar to the Meals on Wheels program for the elderly. HDM serves children from infancy to age 18. HDM serves breakfast and lunch to 200 children in our community, seven days a week, during summer vacation right to their front doors. We are now reaching children that previously weren't able to make it to open food sites due to transportation issues. We fill the bags with delicious and nutritious food as well as brochures on community resources. HDM has helped us serve children and families in our community in a whole new way!
By: Michele O'Brien
As a child, June was an exciting time with the school year ending and summer vacation right around the corner. It has now taken on a new meaning. June is now a time for the Cape Cod Y to reconnect with the families we serve and to work closely with our community partners.
We have held many smoothie socials throughout our community. This has been a great opportunity to hang out with the children we serve while the parents sit with our outreach coordinator and sign up for activities under our Summer Food Program.
At the Cape Cod Y, we sat down with our community partners and brainstormed ways to make this season and our Y’s Summer Food Program even better. We put our creative hats on and came up with fun ways to get the kids excited about getting their free lunch.
This summer, we are bringing back something from my childhood, “Sticker Day.” On special days, one lucky child at each site will have a huge Y sticker on the inside of their lunch bag. This lucky child will receive a special book we have purchased. Through “Sticker Day,” we hope to promote healthy eating as well as reading for pleasure and staying mentally active throughout the summer.
June has also become a time to savor each moment. The summer goes by so quickly, and it would be easy to get caught up in the paperwork, planning, and menus. I choose to take moments from my day and connect with the children and families we serve through our Summer Food Program!
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The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.