In an effort to combat child hunger, the Billings YMCA is offering its free Summer Food Program, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation.
Combining food and fun, the program provides nutritious meals and snacks and fun learning enrichment activities to keep youth healthy, active and well-nourished all summer long. The summer program runs to Aug. 22 and is open to kids from kindergarten to the ninth grade.
Research shows that more than 30 million children in low-income communities receive free or reduced-cost meals during the school year, but only 2.3 million of these same kids have access to free meals when school is out. To help fill summertime gap and ensure fewer children go hungry, the Billings Y will serve more than 300 kids snacks every weekday this summer. At more than 1,100 summer food program sites nationwide, the Y will strive to serve 5 million healthy meals and snacks to 150,000 kids this summer.
“At the Y, we are focused on keeping kids mentally and physically active while ensuring they have access to healthy food so they’re well-nourished and avoid the ‘summer slide’,” said Shannon George, afterschool and summer camp program director.
In addition to providing nutritious snacks for campers, the grant helped the Y purchase additional refrigerators, and a new water fountain for kids to fill up their reusable water bottles, which are an important part of keeping kids hydrated during the summer months.
The program provides a free lunch Monday through Friday. The lunch is free to any one age 0-18; adults can also eat for a small fee. Lunches will be available in the Underriner Family Playground on Fourth Avenue North.
The Y is committed to nurturing the physical, mental and social-emotional development of youth and is working to ensure that all kids have access to nutritious meals, so they can continue to be healthy and thrive when out of school. The YMCA’s Summer Food Program, now in its fourth year, is part of a year-round effort to fight child hunger in partnership with the Walmart Foundation. In 2013, the Y provided a total of 7.5 million meals to children across the country through Afterschool and Summer Food Programs. During the school year, the Billings Y will also serve healthy meals and snacks in its afterschool program to provide kids with nourishment and academic enrichment.