Free Summer Food Program at the Y

Summer Day Camp just got a whole lot better.

Thanks to a multi-million dollar grant from the Walmart Foundation, campers at the Galowich and Smith Family YMCAs in Joliet will receive free lunch each day.

The free Summer Food Program, a nationwide initiative to combat childhood hunger, provides nutritious meals and snacks to keep kids healthy, active and well-nourished all summer long.

Supplied by the Northern Illinois Food Bank, menu items include everything from grilled chicken salad to “pizza stackers.”

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 continued to have access to free meals during summer. Ys across the country are well-positioned to tackle this issue as part of their robust summer programming for youth. With more than 1,100 summer food program sites nationwide, the Y will serve 5 million healthy meals and snacks to 150,000 kids this summer.

“At the Y, we are dedicated to ensuring that kids don’t go hungry and they have access to daily nutrition all year round, especially during the summer months when hunger can have negative effects on youth development,” said Stacey McDaniel, spokesperson for the Year-Round Food Program at YMCA of the USA. “If kids are hungry, they can’t focus and if they’re not active and learning they are at risk of the ‘summer slide’. The Y and the Walmart Foundation are working to ensure that kids have the nutrition they need for positive physical, academic and character development.”

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.

“The summer months can be a challenging time for families as they try to ensure their children have access to regular, healthy meals while they’re out of school,” said Julie Gehrki, senior director of the Walmart Foundation. “We are proud to continue partnering with the Y this year to help even more kids and teens across the United States benefit from meal programs in their hometowns, so they can enjoy healthy, happy summers.”

For more information, check out the US News coverage of this program.

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