Summer Food Program

Food + Fun = Healthy Summer for Kids

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 5 million meals and snacks to 150,000 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.

Generously sponsored by Walmart

The Y’s summer food programs will be available at nearly 1,100 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.


Locate a Participating Y Near You

Interested in joining us for a meal this summer?  Download a list of participating Ys, or use our locator map below!

2014 Summer Food Program Blog Tour

Join us for an insider look at the summer food program taking place at a community near you!  These are the exclusive, behind-the-scenes stories of our commitment to address child hunger by providing healthy environments that incorporate healthy eating and physical activity standards.

Current Entry

by Nicole Lowe
YMCA of Greater Seattle (Algona, WA)
posted on 7/21/14

Each year YMCA of Greater Seattle teams up with local libraries to help combat summer learning loss through fun, engaging activities. This summer our Algona Matchett Park program has partnered with the City of Auburn’s library to provide children with free books. Each child is able to take one book home, every Thursday, to help continue with their reading over the summer. This summer, our United Way Intern who helps at the site everyday has also ran improve and drama activities, which help to bring the books the children choose to life! While this program has just started kids are already loving these new activities!


Recent Entries: July 2014

by Amanda Moore
YMCA of Greater Indianapolis (Indianapolis, IN)
posted on 7/21/14

Homework was a constant struggle everyday for Ja'Von. Then, a neighborhood friend in his housing complex told him about a free after-school program where he could get help. Ja'Von started attending the YMCA after-school program regularly, working with the local college student volunteers on his homework. The free program is right in his housing complex, and provides Ja'Von and his friends a safe and fun place to do homework and other activities after school.

Soon, his grades improved. "At first, I had a 'C' in reading. Now I have an 'A' in reading. My lexile is at a seventh grade reading level," he said. He credits his improvement to his time in the YMCA after-school program. "We read here every day," he said. The confidence in his voice is strong- the kid who once struggled to read now doesn't want to put the books down. He's currently reading the Harry Potter series and loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Judy Blume series.

The ambitious ten-year-old has high hopes for the future. Someday, he wants to be a heart doctor so he can help people. "Did you know you can't spell awesome without ME?" he said.

by Amanda Moore
YMCA of Greater Indianapolis (Indianapolis, IN)
posted on 7/18/14

De-Fayebeon is the fastest runner in his fourth grade class. He plays football and basketball and someday, he wants to play for the NFL for his hometown team, the Indianapolis Colts. De-Fayebeon started coming to the YMCA after-school program at his Laurelwood housing complex a few years ago and continues to come back. "I come to see what they're doing and to get help with my homework. And I come because my friends and I love the staff members."

The staff is composed of local college students, some paid with work-study funds, many volunteering their own time to help kids have a safe place to study and play after school. The program launched in 2002 and has continued to expand and provide outreach to the local residents. As the program has expanded, so has its popularity. "Most of my friends come here," De-Fayebeon said.

One of the many perks of the after-school program is incentive field trips for students with regular attendance and good behavior. Volunteers have taken the Laurelwood kids to collegiate sporting events, the pumpkin patch and most recently, a trampoline facility called SkyZone. It was De-Fayebeon's favorite day of the program. "We were jumping and flipping!" he said excitedly. The opportunity to expose children who often times are limited to the confines of their neighborhood to new things expands not only their experiences, but also their dreams. By engaging in new events, new activities and new places, they learn about the unlimited possibilities for their futures and unlimited boundaries of their dreams. If we can help kids continue to be inspired, they will continue to strive to reach their goals.

Rachelle and Bryant
by Amanda Moore
YMCA of Greater Indianapolis (Indianapolis, IN)
posted on 7/16/14

Brother and sister duo Rachelle and Bryant can hardly contain their excitement about the upcoming YMCA summer camp. As regulars of the Laurelwood program, they have been coming to the after-school tutoring sessions nearly everyday, eager to play outside and mingle with their friends- that is, after their homework is done. As the school year comes to and end, the two know what's next and they can hardly wait- summer camp.

The Intercollegiate YMCA has provided summer camp for Laurelwood children for eleven, thanks to the gracious gifts of donors and grants. The camp gives the children a safe place to play during the summer while parents work. The free summer camp is a blessing to many parents who struggle to find and pay for child care when school's out. "I don't feel like I'm sending my kids with YMCA workers for the summer, I feel like I'm sending them with family. They really care about the wellbeing of the kids," said Lori, Rachelle and Bryant's mom.

For six-year-old Rachelle, summer camp means swimming at the pool, one of her favorite things to do. With her love for the pool, it's no surprised this ambitious kindergartner is already considering a career that involves a lot of time in the water; someday, she hopes to be a dolphin trainer. For now, she's looking forward to many pool days and spending the summer with her brother and friends. "You get to do fun stuff at the YMCA!" she exclaimed.

by Amanda Moore
YMCA of Greater Indianapolis (Indianapolis, IN)
posted on 7/15/14

Seven-year-old Isaiah is a tiny kid with big dreams. Someday, he hopes to grow up to be a basketball or soccer player. Though he's got his eyes set of the future, his stomach can't ignore the present situation of this first-grader's life. When asked what his favorite thing about the volunteer-run YMCA after-school program at his housing complex, a seemingly shy Isaiah had no hesitation. "Lunch," he said. "On Tuesdays and Thursdays we eat real food." When asked why he loves lunch, his response was heartbreaking. "Because my stomach hurts sometimes."

The hunger pains are very real for many kids in the Laurelwood program, Like Isaiah, many of the children rely on a snack provided by the YMCA to keep hunger at bay until dinner. Except sometimes, dinner never comes. "It's hard to get food at home," Isaiah says. When his mom's at work, the first-grader is often left to fend for himself, making ramen noodles or macaroni for dinner.

Through a recent partnership for the University of Indianapolis food service provider, the YMCA was able to provide a full meal to all Laurelwood students on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Other funders have allowed volunteers to help plant a community garden in May. Planting the garden was Isaiah's favorite memory of the YMCA after-school program. "We planted carrots, tomatos and peppers," he said, "and when they grow, we'll eat them!" Though we've made small strides in combating hunger for the students in the Laurelwood program, it is our dream to eliminate food insecurity for our beloved students. We want to be able to provide healthy, nourishing options for kids like Isaiah, because no child should have to feel the pain of hunger.

by Amanda Moore
YMCA of Greater Indianapolis (Indianapolis, IN)
posted on 7/14/14

Jada is a regular at the Laurelwood YMCA afterschool programs. The vibrant third grader is a natural leader in the group of elementary students who regularly attend the tutoring program and speaks with confidence and purpose as if she runs the place.

Someday, she wants to. "These people have inspired me," she says, referring to the college students who volunteer at the program.

At the beginning of the school year, Jada struggled. Despite her love for reading and school, she was failing at the end of her first semester. She started attending the after-school program in her housing program, enticed by the playground time and opportunity to hang out with her friends, and within a semester she brought up her grades. "My homework has a lot to do with my grades and they helped me with it. They helped me learn how to study."

The extra attention after school has paid off; she's ending the year with a B, a vast improvement from her failing grades from the beginning of the year.

Jada credits her improvement to the YMCA afterschool program, and someday she hopes to help kids just like her discover a passion for learning. Her future plans are to become a teacher. "I love kids and I like working with kids. I already know I want to be a kindergarten through sixth grade teacher," she said. Until then, her plans for the future are pretty simple, "just being around kids and enjoying life."

Feeding Our Community
by YMCA of Central Ohio (Columbus, OH)
posted on 7/14/14

Summer is in full gear at the YMCA of Central Ohio and thanks to funding from the Walmart Foundation Year Round Outreach Program Grant, youngsters from Columbus’ West Bay Apartments are enjoying fun-filled activities and nutritious food, including breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks. From gardening and swim lessons, to reading and math instruction and outdoor play, the children from this community have an opportunity to learn, grow and thrive and enjoy their summer - just as kids should.

Joyce, grandmother of West Bay site participant Hayden, is so thankful for the program and daily activities her grandson gets to participate in. “At first, Hayden didn’t want to come to the program because he thought I was bringing him to a babysitter,” she said. “But once he attended, he realized it was a program full of activities and recreation and loves it…he’s done real well.”

The YMCA of Central Ohio will continue to fight child hunger by providing healthy meals and snacks to the children at our program sites. Check out the video in this post to hear what the Summer Food Program means to some of our staff.


by YMCA of Central Ohio (Columbus, OH)
posted on 7/11/14

Children and teens throughout Central Ohio are enjoying the warm summer weather and their time at the Y. From day camps to sporting leagues, youth are staying active both physically and mentally. Thanks to a generous gift from the Walmart Foundation, hundreds of Central Ohio youth are receiving nutritious meals and snacks each day throughout the summer. Our Summer Food Program is serving youth at 15 unique sites, including school partnerships. Nick has big dreams for his future and joyfully says, “the Y is my second home.” He’s making new friends, building relationships with staff role models, trying new things and enjoying the benefits of nutritious food.  

Nick first came to the Y as a second grader and a new enrollee in the Y’s after-school program. Last summer, his family moved into a different neighborhood and has experienced economic hardships. This summer, Nick’s mom, turned to the Y bringing Nick and his sister to a YMCA Summer Day Camp. “I have such peace of mind knowing my children are being cared for, kept safe and receiving hot, nutritious meals from the Summer Food Program. Now, my children have the freedom to just be kids.”


Dedrick Henderson5-2-1 Almost None
by Lalita Llerena
Tampa YMCA (Tampa, FL)
posted on 7/10/14

The Y’s Summer Food Program aligns well with the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA’s healthy living curriculum. In our summer camps, we heavily promote Nemours Health & Prevention Service’s 5-2-1-Almost None formula which stands for:

  • Five or more fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Two hours or less of inactive screen time each day.
  • One hour of physical activity each day.
  • Almost none of items such as soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks that are not 100% fruit juice.

Our summer campers are really walking the talk when it comes to 5-2-1-Almost None. LaTasha Henderson’s seven-year-old son Dedrick learned about it in the Tampa Y’s Summer Learning Loss Prevention Program. He can repeat it back verbatim and she says, “He came home and he explained it and he quizzed us. It was so funny that first day, we said, ‘Oh! So, no juice?’ and we did water for dinner. So, we started right away.” Dedrick’s not the only one bringing home the healthier lifestyle to his family. “We’ve been inviting our summer counselors to really make sure it’s at the forefront and to have a dialogue with our children to understand what 5-2-1-Almost None is all about and why it’s important,” says Sulphur Springs Y Executive Director Mike McCollum. The Tampa Y’s summer camp shirts even feature 5-2-1-Almost None on them to remind kids to follow the formula on a daily basis. We believe by providing kids with free nutritious breakfasts and lunches, we’re helping teach local families the lifetime benefits of healthy eating and active living.


Sr. Program Director Lakema MasseyThe Difference A Meal Makes
by Lalita Llerena
Tampa YMCA (Tampa, FL)
posted on 7/9/14

We’re beginning to notice a bit of a trend with children participating in the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA’s free Summer Food Program, especially at the Y in Sulphur Springs, one of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. “Without food provided by our summer program, our students are unable to be fully engaged and are unable to showcase positive behavior,” shares Senior Program Director Lakema Massey. Lakema recalls a recent incident where one student arrived too late to receive free breakfast. “It seemed to be an almost immediate reaction that the student began to completely shut down,” shares Lakema. “The student grew very upset, did not want to participate during the assigned academic hour, refused to listen to the counselor and actually began to cry.” That’s when Lakema invited the student into her office, offered him a breakfast bar and bottle of water. “He said he never eats breakfast at home because his mom always has to go to work, which causes them to always be in a hurry,” says Lakema who reassured him she would speak with his mother to ensure they arrive on time for the Y’s free breakfast. The child rejoined his group and his behavior drastically changed throughout the remainder of the day. Needless to say, we’re very grateful for our free summer meals. We believe when a child’s basic needs (like nutrition) are taken care of, they are free to focus on learning, growing and thriving at the Y!

Cooking for Life - Teaching Kitchen
by Gail Klimas
East Boston YMCA (Boston, MA)
posted on 7/8/14

The girls are very proud of the carrot salads they made with many ingredients, coming from our urban garden. Kids that participate in Summer Food Service Program and the East Boston YMCA Camp at Ashley Street are learning to make healthy choices, grow vegetables, and prepare nutritious snacks. During the summer months kids will attend weekly classes taught at the Y Cooking for Life Teaching Kitchen, while developing their gardening skills in our own backyard.

Milk Madness & Banana Bonanza!
by Lalita Llerena
Tampa YMCA (Tampa, FL)
posted on 7/7/14

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the kids participating in the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA’s free Summer Food Program is ENERGY. Just take a look at this video we took of summer campers at our New Tampa Family YMCA. They can’t get enough of the fresh bananas, milk and muffins. Staff from our Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA share similar observations. “Our kids love breakfast and a large number of our participants take advantage of it,” says Youth Sports Director Chris Roese. “I've noticed that they are definitely not as sluggish in the morning and have a lot more energy.”

Our goal right now is getting the word out so that more community kids can take advantage of the important program. Along with all the helpful marketing tools provided by YMCA of the USA and some local media coverage, Y staff members are also making rounds within our branches to spread the news. We’re letting the parents who drop their kids off in our Kids Zone Learning & Play Centers know about the free meals. We’re also reaching out to young teens who come in and play basketball to make them aware of the food. Social media has also proven to be a great tool to alert the community. We’re doing everything we can to help prevent childhood hunger in the Tampa Bay area!

A Village of Support at the YMCA
by CJ Paciencia
YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids (Grand Rapids, MI)
posted on 7/7/14

The YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids Food Service Program based out of the David D. Hunting YMCA began in the summer of 2012 with a goal to become self-sufficient and feed more children in our community. We want all children to be healthy, active and well-nourished and our Food Service Program is one way we accomplish this goal.

Every day we hear stories about the difference we are making in lives of the kids we serve, like Bella:

“Our daughter, Bella, has a rare GI condition where trace amounts of proteins and grains in her system can trigger reactions that land her in ER. Prior to the start of school, we met with the Y staff to specifically address how they could help meet Bella's dietary needs and were ecstatic when they created a meal plan that is both nutritional and safe for Bella to enjoy! The Y staff also implemented a processes for handling her food – she even has her own special cutting board.

Bella lights up when you tell her Chef Dru made her eggs, and as a mom, I smile, too! They say it takes a village to raise a child. The David D. Hunting YMCA has been just that - a village of support, communication, hard work and effort in ensuring that Bella is a healthy, thriving and growing child.”

—Excerpt from an email by Bella’s Mom Kaylee

Thanks to the generosity of various grants, funding was made available to purchase proper kitchen equipment and delivery vans, as well as train and hire knowledgeable staff.

The growth and success of the program has exceeded our expectations.  Our ability to serve children not only in YMCA programs but throughout the greater Grand Rapids community ensures that more children are receiving healthy meals and snacks than ever before. We offer the Food Service program throughout the year. Our summer programming runs from June through August with the school year programs running September through May. 

  • Since 2012, growth from our summer program has increased from serving approximately 400 meals a day to now serving 850 meals a day.
  • Our school year program has also increased from approximately 550 meals a day in 2012-2013 to 800 meals a day in 2013-2014.

We are excited to be a part of helping kids get their fill of healthy, nutritious meals which ultimately leads to a stronger community. To learn more about our Food Service Program, click on this link

by Gail Klimas
East Boston YMCA (Boston, MA)
posted on 7/3/14

The Summer Food Program started June 26 on a local beach. Sofia is a three-and-a-half year old girl who enjoys coming to Constitution Beach in East Boston with her grandmother. They enjoy the sun, sand and beach activities. Sofia says she looks forward to coming every day and seeing what she will have for lunch and snack; her grandmother thinks this is a good program for the children and will help our community. The Y looks forward to building a relationship with Sofia and watching her grow over the summer months.


by Gail Klimas
East Boston YMCA (Boston, MA)
posted on 7/1/14

YMCA of Greater Boston is pleased to welcome Juliana Vazquez our newest Summer Food Service Program team member. She'll be working to provide engagement and enrichment activities to the children in between serving healthy, nutritious meals. She is excited to meet and help others while gaining experience and knowledge of her community. Summer Food and summer teen employment are just a couple of the ways the Y contributes to social responsibility.


Recent Entries: June 2014

Building a Village of Empowerment and Support for Children
by Candice Hillenbrand
YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City (Oklahoma City, OK)
posted on 6/27/14

I will never forget the day I sat across from a program officer at a very prominent Oklahoma foundation and, after a good 10-minute glowing report of all the wonderful things our YMCA is doing in the community, waited in silence as she simply stared at me. What seemed like hours passed and then she finally let out a sigh and said, "Candice, the Y cannot be everything to every person. It's just not possible. You all need to do what you do best and let other agencies do what they do best."

At the risk of being dramatic, I was devastated. Of course our Y can be everything to every person who needs us. We do a lot of things really well and we have for the last 170 years. So, of course I told her that being there for every person who needs the Y is rooted deeply within our foundation. I was flustered, a bit struck down, but I will never forget those words. Donors must see the work we do in our YMCAs as valuable, a good investment, and that their money is doing the most good in the community.

So we partner. The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City seeks support from many agencies that have like missions to extend our reach. We understand we don't do all things perfectly, so we ask for help. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is a valuable partner in our efforts to ensure no children goes hungry each year. Together we fed over 41,000 meals and snacks last summer to 800 children and expect to serve at least 50,000 meals and snacks this summer. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the YMCA work to make sure quality meals and snacks are delivered daily for campers and children from the community. Each child can come into any one of the 13 participating YMCA Summer Food Program sites to share in a healthy lunch and afternoon snack Monday through Friday.

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is just one of the many agencies the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City leans upon to help build a village of empowerment and support for children and their families in the communities we serve. No, the YMCA cannot be everything for every person, but with help from our friends, we can do more for those who need us most.

Sugar-Free Summer
by Candice Hillenbrand
YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City (Oklahoma City, OK)
posted on 6/22/14

Sugar-Free Summer at the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City. Hold the phone! No sugar all summer long? What about popsicles and sno cones? This is obviously a terrible idea. Maybe we should reconsider this camp. I'll just stay with Grandma.

We have seen the distress, felt the terror and have reassured children and parents alike that this challenge comes with a name to remind every camper and their family to be active, reduce their sugar intake, drink water, read, and be active together this summer. Sugar is a part of everyday life, but making healthy choices should be as well.

Currently, over 1,500 day campers here at the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City are working in teams to track their achievements in reading, physical activity, and water intake. Campers who achieve milestones in these areas will receive fun prizes like ultra bright backpacks, magnetic bookmarks, jump ropes with silly eyes on the ends, and the final "Finisher" dog tag to act as a symbol of success and a reminder to keep up the good work. Inside of the eight-week challenge is a curriculum focused on helping children retain school-year knowledge in math, science, and language arts using nutrition components to help deliver the message. "How Much For that Banana in the Window?" is a grades 3-5 lesson that helps children retain math skills while learning more about fruits and vegetables.

As part of our Year Round Food Program, our association has made a commitment to make wellness FUN! The Sugar-Free Summer Challenge is just another way we are showing children how exciting health and education can be.


From Big Sister to Healthy Leader
by Nora Shigemoto
YMCA of Superior California (Sacramento, CA)
posted on 6/17/14


This summer food program is more than just about physical well-being, and our program is dedicated to creating healthy lifestyles inside and out for a new generation of leaders. 

NJ* was a participant at our Tahoe Park site where we served a group of children from St. John's Women and Children's Shelter as well as several neighborhood children. She was an older sibling to several of our other participants and took that role to heart. She is a very artistic young lady who is also enthusiastic and athletic when given the opportunity. While these positive attributes were recognized by Healthy Kids Staff members, she at first had a difficult time following directions and following some of the rules at our camp as well as putting her best effort into participation. 

We believed that with a bit of encouragement, she would be able to do even better. Our staffs made sure to keep a very positive, encouraging, and positive attitude toward all participants, and through this method, were able to form a trusting and positive relationship. This had a very visible effect on NJ.  Once she understood that this was a place where she could learn, play, and exercise with people she trusted, she underwent a positive change of behavior. 

NJ began participating in everything from our Good Morning songs and games to helping to lead different physical activities throughout the day. She became more respectful and helpful to staff and fellow campers. Not only did NJ's behavior dramatically change, but her written- and physical- test scores improved notably as well as her confidence began to take root.

The most inspirational thing about NJ's change has less to do with her quantifiable scores, but in our opinion, has more to do with the bright impact that healthy living, group games, and physical exercise can have on a person's outlook of life. Not the most positive of participants at the s, NJ seemed to find that by following guidelines and becoming a leader herself, she could embody a more positive outlook on a situation that she may not have had if she didn't learn to make those changes. By the end of our Healthy Kids camp, NJ became an active participant, leader, and role model; to us, that is the greatest success of all.

*Name has been changed

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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.