[Port Royal, June 28, 2018] According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, around 22 million kids receive free or reduced-cost meals thanks to the National School Lunch Program. However, once the school year ends, 5 out of 6 of those kids, no longer have access to free or reduced-price meals, leaving many children without during the summer months.
The Y is working to fill that gap of food insecurity, and thanks to support from the Walmart Foundation and local partner agencies and organizations, will help keep children healthy and well-nourished this summer. Participating youth in summer camp and afterschool programs receive both food and fun through nutritious meals and snacks, while enjoying recreational and learning activities aimed at keeping bodies and minds active. At more than 1,000 locations across the country, including the Wardle Family YMCA in Port Royal, the Y offers the Summer Food Program to any child under age 18.
The Wardle Family YMCA will serve over 29,000 free meals here in Beaufort County and at our summer camp sites in Jasper County. Moreover, the Wardle Family Y is an ‘open site’ so any child under age 18 can receive a free meal at the Y in Port Royal (1801 Richmond Avenue) Monday to Friday from 11 am to 12:30 pm, through August 17, 2018. The Y is able to provide the food program with the assistance of Beaufort County School District in addition to the support from Walmart Foundation and YMCA of the USA.
“Hunger has a lasting impact on the development of children,” says Kaylin Garst, Branch Executive Director of the Wardle Family YMCA. “Without access to nutrition-filled meals, kids can’t focus, become restless and may engage in risky behavior and ultimately, can’t reach their full potential. The Y’s Summer Food Program helps to make sure kids can enjoy healthy and delicious meals all summer long.”
Garst is also a Regional Food Program Facilitator assisting other YMCAs throughout the country in providing successful, year-round food programs.
Participants in the Migrant Education Summer Camp also receive dinner as well as breakfast and lunch. These campers and their families are also supplied with shelf-stable, ready-made meals thanks to the donation of 2,000 of these meals by the Lowcountry Food Bank.
“In addition to our partners, volunteers also play an integral part in the success of this program,” Garst added. “We are fortunate to have volunteers through Beaufort County Disabilities and Special Needs Department. It has been a joy having these volunteers with us this summer serve meals to campers!”
During the school year, the Wardle Family YMCA also serves healthy dinners and snacks as part of its afterschool program, providing hundreds of kids with nourishment and academic enrichment.
Now in its eighth year, the Summer Food Program is part of an existing national partnership between YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) and the Walmart Foundation to address child hunger, which is more prevalent during the summertime. The program is just part of the Y’s year-round effort to address child hunger.