YMCA Works to Increase Summer Nutrition Program Participation
When the bell rang in June to mark the end of the school year, children from low-income families in North Carolina lost access to the school meals they relied on during the school year. Summer Nutrition Programs help close this gap by providing free meals to eligible children age 18 and under at YMCAs, schools, churches, and libraries, among other safe sites across the state. Not only are children not going hungry as a result of summer meals, they also benefit from educational and recreational activities offered at the sites that keep them active, engaged, and better prepared to return to the classroom in the fall.
This summer, the YMCA of Western North Carolina is partnering with local school systems to provide free summer meals and programming for youth. For many families, these summer meals are critical.
"If it wasn't for the YMCA's summer meal program, I don't know how I'd be able to feed my kids healthy meals each day. This program is a real lifesaver," said a parent from Asheville.
Yet too many children in North Carolina are missing out on these important meals and engagement programs.
The Food Research & Action Center's recently released summer meals report found that on an average weekday in North Carolina during July 2017, Summer Nutrition Programs served slightly more than 55,000 breakfasts and 100,000 lunches to children across the state. For every six children who received a free and reduced-priced school lunch during previous school year, only one participated in the summer lunch program.
To further increase participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs in North Carolina, the YMCA of Western North Carolina is teaming up with Smithfield Foods and the Food Research & Action Center on the Rally Against Rural Hunger initiative to raise awareness about rural hunger, connect eligible people with federal food assistance programs (including the Summer Nutrition Programs), and help them get the necessary nutrition for their well-being and health. This is important because rural households are more likely to experience food insecurity than those in metropolitan areas, and children who live in rural areas have a 26 percent greater chance of becoming obese than children in metropolitan areas.
For more information, check out the Food Research & Action Center's Summer Nutrition Programs page and resources on rural hunger. The Summer Meal Locator can provide information on summer sites in your area. For help with summer programs through the YMCA of Western North Carolina, email Cory Jackson, director of nutrition services.