Y goes “above and beyond” to serve thousands of meals each summer nutriton
The state of North Carolina has recognized the YMCA of Western North Carolina for its efforts to improve food security for students over the summer.
During the school year, many of these students rely on the nutritious meals served through the School Breakfast Program, School Lunch Program, and Afterschool Meals Program. But hunger doesn’t take a summer break. More than 27 percent of students experience hunger when school is out of session.
The state partners with organizations such as the YMCA of WNC to meet the need. Last year, the N.C. Summer Nutrition Programs served more than 5.2 million meals to children and teens at nearly 3,000 locations across the state.
The Superior Site Award from the state’s Department of Public Instruction, School Nutrition Services Section, recognizes the Y’s Nutrition Outreach program for serving 42,817 healthy meals at 12 distribution sites in cooperation with Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools, and Green Opportunities.
“One key part of our program is how the entire Y nutrition outreach crew and our association has made nutritious food, not just meals, the cornerstone of our summer meal service,” said Cory Jackson, nutrition and wellness director at the YMCA of WNC. “By doing so we are helping make western North Carolina healthier while also bridging the summer meal gap.”
Statewide, only 12 out of every 100 public school students eligible for summer meal programs participated in them. State officials say raising awareness is key to ensuring all youth who are in need of summer meals take advantage of these vital programs.
“Hunger and poverty are top concerns for School Nutrition officials,” said Lynn Harvey, chief of the School Nutrition Services Section of NCDPI. “Making students and families aware and informed of available sites for summer meals is crucial to keeping kids well-nourished, healthy and ready to learn.”
“By supporting programs that provide balanced meals throughout the summer, we are helping to keep North Carolina’s children on the path to success,” said Cynthia Ervin, manager of Summer Nutrition Programs with NCDPI. “Proper nutrition promotes optimal growth and development in children and therefore plays an important role in improving education outcomes.”
The YMCA of WNC’s Nutrition Outreach team distributes free healthy food at 32 mobile markets across five counties each month, and serves free meals to children under age 18 every Saturday at the Ferguson Family YMCA. For more information, visit https://www.ymcawnc.org/nutrition.