Waking up to a big plate of pancakes, enjoying fresh fruit on a hot summer day, and feasting on freshly grilled hamburgers – that’s most kids’ idea of a perfect summer. When school is out, many children are able to relax and enjoy three months of fun activities and full bellies. But for millions, hunger pangs are the coldest memory of the warm summer months.
More than 16 million children in the United States come from households who experience food insecurity – not having enough food to provide solid nutrition. That’s enough people to fill 845 basketball stadiums. For these children – and 15 million more who qualify for free and reduced-lunch programs – school lunches are the main source of nutrition, and when school is out for the summer, they no longer have daily access to meals.
Additionally, teachers are huge advocates for their students, with 10% purchasing food regularly for their hungry students. Many teachers also help families enroll in programs to secure food for their household, and direct them to resources that can help fill in the gaps that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) leaves. The USDA does its part in helping during the summer months by providing the Summer Food Service Program in schools around the country, but of the 30 million who receive free or reduced-cost lunches, only about 2.3 million continue to receive meals throughout the summer. That means a large majority of children are lacking basic nutrition on a daily basis, which can lead to mental, emotional and physical problems ranging from stomachaches to hospitalization.
The YMCA of the United States has long been committed to the health and well being of the children in our communities. This year, the Y has partnered with the Walmart Foundation to provide 5 million meals and snacks to more than 150,000 children and teenagers. The YMCA Summer Food Program is helping children and teens ages 5 to 18 in more than 1,000 communities nationwide by providing nutritious and delicious meals, the summer food program will provide activities and learning opportunities for these children to help them get their fill of food and fun during the summer.
Communities across the country are jumping into the Summer Food Program, providing meals for children in need. The Hopkins County Family YMCA in Madisonville, KY, provide food from 44 sites, including 18 stops on 4 mobile routes. In Seatac, WA, home of the YMCA of Greater Seattle, the Summer Food Program is able to offer adults supplemental food through other programs, and helps get entire families engaged in summer fun. The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis runs a summer camp program to not only help families find food for their children, but provide low-cost and free child care during the summer months. These are just a few stories from Y’s in the US.
To learn more or to find a Y in your community, visit the YMCA Summer Food Program website.