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

YMCA of Silicon Valley (Santa Clara, CA)
posted on 8/15/14

To whom it may concern,

I’m writing to express my appreciation to the YMCA staff that is in charge of the care of my daughter, Elizabeth Guardado that is in 2nd grade.

I’m extremely thankful  for the well-balanced nutritious  foods that are provided to my daughter.  I’m content and at ease knowing that my daughter is eating healthy.

I highly recommend this program to all parents as it helps us learn across many areas such as art, culture, social responsibility and natural science.

Thank you YMCA staff

Ana Ortiz (Elizabeth’s mom) [Translated from Spanish]


Recent Entries: August 2014

by Melissa Ryan
Sterling-Rock Falls YMCA (Sterling, IL)
posted on 8/14/14

Translation: "Thank you so much for all you have done for my kids and myself. May God bless you and keep you healthy. Thank you, Rosa Veloz"

When you work for the YMCA, it is a given that your role will probably grow and that you will wear many different hats throughout your time with the Y.  Sometimes, the hustle and bustle of your position can become overwhelming and at times tiresome.  However, your ability to make an impact through health and nutrition programs in your community allows no time to be tired.  For those of us who are Youth Development Directors, Day Camp Directors, or Summer Camp Counselors; especially the planning portion know all too well that tired feeling I am referring to. 

However, this feeling goes away almost daily as we are given constant reminders of why we do the work we do at the YMCA. Our Y is a small rural YMCA, where our free and reduced lunch population have continued to rise each year.  Recently, I had a humbling moment at one of our parent registration nights at one of our Outreach Programs. 

As I was getting ready to walk out the door, a mother and her children walked into the room.  The site coordinator comes up to me with a look on her face and calmly tells me this mother's name, along with all her children's names.  The site coordinator continues to tell me that this mother didn't have transportation and set up a ride to make sure she could be at this Outreach Parent Meeting.  However, her ride had dropped her off at the wrong location for the meeting.  This mother and children had walked all the way over to the Middle School.   She expressed to us how important it was that her children were able to be part of this program.  This family just moved to our community recently and was living in a home with no food, no beds, no tables, no furniture, etc.  This program was the only thing this mother had for her children to be healthy this summer. 

I was humbled by her appreciation and left feeling blessed knowing that our YMCA was helping to make sure this family was fed this summer and this family was being exposed to opportunity they wouldn't normally have without the Y.

Next time you are feeling tired, frustrated, or overworked, think of those families we are feeding, those families that would have nothing without the work that the Y does in our communities.  Think about the nourishment that the children in your communities are receiving and how this one summer program, can potentially change a family's life.  Keep going, keep working, and let the tired feeling be overtaken by the blessings that your YMCA creates.  Be thankful and be proud to be part of something as wonderful as making sure the youth in our communities are nourished.


YMCA of Silicon Valley (Santa Clara, CA)
posted on 8/13/14

My son, Riley, is a Kinder at Terrell Elementary School. He attends the Child Care program where he has snacks available for him each day. My son is a very high energy child and has always gotten extremely frustrated when he is hungry (which is a constant proglem). At the Y, he is practically provided an extra meal for each day that he is there. Not only is he getting all of the nutrients he needs to grow, but when I pick him up every night he isn't compaining about being hungry anymore.


YMCA of Silicon Valley (Santa Clara, CA)
posted on 8/11/14

My name is Jaylah and I really like how Rev Foods and The YMCA give us healthy foods. The fruit is really good the apples are always really sweet and tasty. I mostly love the Oranges but the Bananas are really good too. The Wraps and Salads are so so so good, with the Ranch Dressing it's amazing. When I eat these foods it makes me feel happy and healthy. I like all the snacks we get in the morning especially the chips that Rev Foods make. I am really happy and thankful to the YMCA for all the food. I know it makes me feel better to know I can come to camp and eat good healthy food. Thank You YMCA I really appreciate it and I know everyone else does too.


Bananas, Bananas, Bananas!
by Melissa Ryan
Sterling-Rock Falls YMCA (Sterling, IL)
posted on 8/7/14

Recently, our YMCA received a donation of thousands of bananas to distribute to the youth in our programs.  As a dedicated partner to the Y, the Walmart Distribution Center calls our Y  first when they have additional fruits and vegetables that can not be taken the local stores.  Walmart knows and understands the work that our YMCA does in regards to nutrition. Our YMCA Youth Development staff enjoys these donations almost as much as the youth in our programs. They enjoy seeing the parents happy when the youth take get to take home an entire bunch of bananas to share with their families and seeing the youth in our programs act like monkeys and make the eating of this fruit fun and entertaining.  

YMCA staff even drove around boxes of bananas and delivered them to the front doors of all of our off site programs at 7AM one morning.  The staff is always grateful for the local Walmart Distrinution Center's contribution to helping to keep our youth healthy. 

Each year, this same distribution center provides our YMCA with a community giving  grant to serve breakfast to all the  youth in each one of our summer programs.  Strong partnerships, where the partner knows and understand the work that your Y does to help fight hunger are an essential part of each nutrtion program.  Being able to share your stories, successess, and barriers with community partners opens up the doors for future donations and funding opportunities.  These donations help to benefit the youth and famiies in our programs! 


Kids Learn Both Golf and Nutrition
by Sara Hornick
YMCA of Rapid City (Rapid City, SD)
posted on 8/7/14

Shuttling seven children around in the summer is a lot especially when they are involved in swimming lessons, golf lessons, and attending the summer reading program at the library. In between activities there isn't a lot of extra time or resources. How can a family afford the activities, food, and time to get it all done in the morning?

The YMCA Summer Food Service Program has helped this family get it all done. The children come to the YMCA for breakfast and then take the opportunity to go to morning swimming lessons. After the kids are finished with lessons, they attend the summer reading program at the library often times continuing their reading time while at the YMCA LaCroix Links Golf Course. In between First Tee golf lessons, the children have the opportunity to take part in the YMCA Summer Food Service Program again for lunch at the golf course. The summer food program is helping families in need in our community, big and small, stretch their budgets by providing healthy, nutritious meals to those.


by Sara Hornick
YMCA of Rapid City (Rapid City, SD)
posted on 8/6/14

Melissa and her children Blake, 5 and Alexa, 2 recently moved to Rapid City from Chicago and were looking for ways to get involved in the community. Melissa and her children started coming to the YMCA three to four times a week. While Melissa works out, her children attend Child Watch.  After Child Watch, the children are often hungry so the family started participating in the YMCA Summer Food Service Program at the YMCA.

Melissa says, “It’s so nice to have programs for kids, especially a free program when you live on a tight budget.” Lately, the children have started asking to go to the YMCA to eat.  According to the children the peas, applesauce, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and milk the best. Blake greets the staff every time with an excited tone, “Hi ladies!” The family likes to come because there is so many other kids there and it encourages Melissa’s kids to sit down and eat as well. “Overall, it’s such a great program and it is so nice to see that kids can get something healthy and nutritious during the summer,” says Melissa. After the children are happily full the kids always tell the staff, “Thank you for feeding me!” Smiling faces and full tummies keep our staff happy and feeling rewarded!


Reaching Beyond Our Walls
by Sara Cole
YMCA of Greater Rochester (Rochester, NY)
posted on 8/5/14

Each summer, more than 16,000 youth in our community go hungry.  This summer, the YMCA of Greater Rochester is reaching beyond its walls to serve meals to community members in one of our city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.  For the first time, the Lewis Street Childcare Center is an “open” food site, which means that youth and families throughout this neighborhood are welcome to come and enjoy healthy breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, as well as to participate in fun and engaging enrichment activities.  By bringing the YMCA of Greater Rochester into our community, we are meeting youth and families where they live and ensuring that every child in our community has the chance to learn, grow, and thrive during the summer months. 


Bender Family
by Sara Hornick
YMCA of Rapid City (Rapid City, SD)
posted on 8/4/14

“Where do I get peas?” asks an excited little boy at the Summer Food Program at the YMCA this summer. In a partnership with the US Department of Agriculture, the Y provides free breakfasts and lunches to kids 18 and under. One family that appreciates the breakfasts and lunches is the Bender family who have been enjoying the meals for the past few summers. The family, with children ages of seven weeks, four, five, seven, and eight years old, are homeschooled. Finances are tight with the birth of a new baby and having four other children at home. One daughter excitedly exclaims, “We like it here because we can eat yummy milk!” Mom, Jessica, also explained they think drinking milk out of individual little milk cartons is a highlight for the children as well.

The Bender kids frequent many of the YMCA programs when they come to the Y. Sometimes it’s swimming or the youth center, other times it’s participating in youth sports or taking advantage of Child Watch, just to name a few. The family enjoys coming to the YMCA summer food program because the kids like the experience of eating at a cafeteria, an experience they don’t usually get because of being homeschooled.

After enjoying the meal at the Y, the two oldest kids were off to play Uno and Legos in the Youth Center while the younger children were excited to attend other programs available in the Child Watch. Peas…who would have thought that peas could be such a big part of the Y experience?


Recent Entries: July 2014

A Lifetime of Healthy Eating
by Sara Cole
YMCA of Greater Rochester (Rochester, NY)
posted on 7/31/14

At the YMCA of Greater Rochester, we know that even toddlers can learn to explore and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables.  Research indicates that children often need to try a new food at least 7 times before determining whether they like it or not, and children in our programs have learned to  approach new foods with curiosity and excitement.  This summer, the toddlers at the Carlson YMCA are enjoying mango, raspberries, cherries, apples, watermelon, and bananas (to name only a few) as well as fresh vegetables, low-fat dairy, healthy proteins, and whole grains.  Fun taste test activities and developmentally appropriate nutrition lessons ensure that children begin learning about healthy choices at a young age, and sharing activities and recipes with parents helps the families in our communities to create healthy homes.


by Sara Cole
YMCA of Greater Rochester (Rochester, NY)
posted on 7/30/14

If the only summer you've ever known is one full of blissful days—the kind you could not help counting down to as the school year wound to its slow close—then you don't know summer in our city.  Here, in Rochester, NY, 3 out of 4 youth go hungry each day, and many youth dread summer and the end of school and afterschool programs which are often their only source of healthy meals and snacks.  This summer, at the YMCA of Greater Rochester, youth are reading with their favorite reading buddy, Hollie (a trained therapy dog); exploring global citizenship through art; and learning about nutrition by participating in hands-on cooking lessons.  And just as importantly, these youth are eating breakfast, lunch, and healthy snacks each day.  For youth at the YMCA, summer is no longer something to be survived, but once again, a time to be savored.


Helping Kids Fight Childhood Obesity
by Danica Gullicksrud
La Crosse Area Family YMCA (La Crosse, WI)
posted on 7/30/14

In the U.S., the occurrence of childhood obesity is continuously on the rise.  At the La Crosse Area Family YMCA, we do our best to implement programs and activities that fight against this ongoing obesity pandemic.  We encourage outdoor play, healthy eating choices, and social activities in our Summer School Age Care program that allow children to practice healthier habits at a young age.  One way that we do this is through our Summer Food Program; all children are offered a healthy breakfast and snack that includes fresh produce and healthy grain options. Also, each School Age Care site takes multiple field trips each week, including outings to local aquatic centers, local parks, and nearby educational establishments.  By taking the children out in the community, each child is able to interact with new people in new environments that allow them to expand their horizons while learning more about their surroundings.  In addition the children remain active and explore new and exciting places with friends and our staff that serve as excellent role models.


Kids Learn the Benefits of Eating Fruits and Veggies
by Danica Gullicksrud
La Crosse Area Family YMCA (La Crosse, WI)
posted on 7/29/14

At the La Crosse Area Family YMCA, our directors and staff have been working hard to continue implementing and improving our summer food program.  Through a partnership with the Walmart Foundation, we have been able to offer all school age care participants a healthy breakfast and snack every day. These meals and snacks include an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains. By encouraging healthy food choices in our programs, we hope to change the way our community eats and thinks about healthy options.  This program also emphasizes our Y5210 initiative.  We encourage our staff to remind the children that they should strive to eat 5 fruits and vegetables daily, to limit screen time to 2 hours or less, to stay active for at least 1 hour every day, and to strive for 0 sugary and sweetened drinks.  Through these reminders, we hope that each child will take these habits home with them to continue making healthy choices outside of our Y.


by La Crosse Area Family YMCA (La Crosse, WI)
posted on 7/28/14

Kelly, a staff member at the La Crosse Area Family YMCA Summer School Age Care site at Sand Lake Elementary (Holmen, WI) runs a nutrition camp on Tuesday and Friday afternoons where the children learn about the different food groups and other things around nutrition. One of the days Kelly taught the children about fruit and healthy fruit options like smoothies. The children helped make the smoothies by using the blender bikes. As children ride the bikes it blends up the ingredients so not only are they getting physical activity, but they are getting something healthy at the end as well. The children tried strawberry and blueberry smoothies. They had a great time! Thanks to the Summer Food Program and the Walmart Foundation Grant, the children are provided with opportunities to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables daily.


Success with New Programs
by Nicole Lowe
YMCA of Greater Seattle (Seattle, WA)
posted on 7/25/14

The YMCA of Greater Seattle has partnered with a low income housing complex to offer free lunches to the kids in the area. Through this partnership we have been able to help families within this complex connect with each other and begin relationships that never existed! This group picture was taken after lunch, while all the kids were creating their own obstacle course on the playground.


by Kelly Forbes
Hopkins County Family YMCA (Madisonville, KY)
posted on 7/24/14

As the Hopkins County Family YMCA continues our mission to feed all 8,000 school-age kids in the summer, we continue to add sites and mobile routes.  This year, we have four mobile routes - totaling 18 stops - bringing the total number of SFSP sites to 44. 

Thanks to our wonderful site volunteers, needs have been addressed that our Y may not have been aware of on our own.  Samantha is a mother of three children who visit the last stop on one of our mobile sites daily.  Samantha’s mother was a volunteer who helped start up a stationary summer feeding site in 2013 and she saw how needed this program was.  Last summer Samantha moved across town to a neighborhood without a SFSP site, nor was one near or on a mobile route.  When she saw how many children lived in the neighborhood, Samantha knew they could benefit from the lunches. 

We’re happy to say that Brentwood Subdivision was added as a site on one of our four mobile routes for 2014.  Not only was it a blessing for a volunteer to advise our Y on an area of need, she actually opened her front yard as a mobile stop since there are no playgrounds or common areas in the neighborhood.  Samantha even recently called us and requested a second picnic table to accommodate all the children who stopped by!   The Brentwood site averages 25 kids per day, and they are so excited when the Y van arrives!

Samantha says, “the Y’s Summer Feeding Program is a great program in that most low-income parents cannot provide the same quality of meals during the summer that their children receive in schools.”  She has seen the benefit of the SFSP in two sites in Hopkins County previously and was more than happy to open her yard this year in order to help numerous children in her subdivision.  The Hopkins County Family YMCA is blessed to have volunteers who constantly look for need in our community to ensure we are assisting as many youth as possible!


Community Togetherness
by Nicole Lowe
YMCA of Greater Seattle (Seatac, WA)
posted on 7/23/14

Our Matt Griffin YMCA offers our Food and Fun program every summer and during the school breaks and holidays. Our Food and Fun program has become a great way for anyone in the community to come and learn, play, and grow! This is one of our meal sites where we are lucky enough to be able to also offer the adults supplemental food through partnerships with other organizations. Offering adults and children food has allowed the adults to become more engaged with the program, getting into games, sparking conversations about nutrition, and helping to continue build a safe, fun community to our program. As we hear so often, many families have expressed that this program has helped to supply much needed food to their families.


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!


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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