In an effort to combat child hunger and keep kids active and engaged this summer, the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA will again offer its free Food and Fun at the Park program at 6 city parks and the YMCA starting on Monday, June 19th. The free program provides nutritious meals and snacks and fun learning activities to keep youth healthy, active and well-nourished all summer long. The Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA joins the Y’s national effort to serve 5 million meals to 150,000 kids and teens this summer thanks to funding from Walmart Foundation and the YMCA of the USA.
When kids are out of school, one in six may not know when their next meal will be; food insecurity exists in every community. Across the country more than 22 million kids rely on free and reduced–priced school lunches during the school year, yet only 3 million children take advantage of the free meals provided by the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program meaning that 6 out of 7 eligible kids do not get these healthy meals over the summer.
What does hunger do to kids? In school and at home food-insecure children may exhibit an array of behavioral problems, including fighting, hypersensitivity, aggression, anxiety, mood swings, depression and bullying. They may be at greater risk of truancy and school tardiness and they are vulnerable to poor health now and in the future as well as stunted development from the earliest stages of life. Ironically they are more apt to be overweight from eating inexpensive high-calorie, low-nutrition foods. Economically challenged families who depend on the free/reduced school foods must devote an additional $300. from their already stretched budgets to feed each of their school aged children over the summer.
By increasing access to nutritious meals during out-of-school time, the number of food-insecure children can be reduced. The YMCA is part of this solution. In 2016, Ys across the country served nearly 487,000 youth over 19 million meals/snacks at more than 3,500 program sites. Last summer the Wilkes-Barre Y served 250 kids over 8,000 meals/snacks.
The Food and Fun at the Park program runs Monday to Friday from 10 am to 2 pm and is open to kids in grades K to 12; preschool age children are welcome but must be accompanied by a caregiver over the age of 16. Lunch will be served from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm and snack served at 1:30 pm. The program runs on weekdays starting June 19 and ending on August 18th. There will be no program on July 4th and the program will not take place in the case of rain.
“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 Jim Thomas, CEO of the Wilkes-Barre Family Y. “Food and Fun at the Park will help kids stay healthy, active and energized all summer long, ensuring they start the school year ready to achieve.”
Daily participants in the local Y’s Summer Food and Fun at the Park program will receive a nutritious snack and lunch and enjoy various fun activities daily. These will include a new reading activity “Imagination Station Cafe”, funded by the United Way of Wyoming Valley, which will engage kids in daily reading fun and provide free books for their home libraries as well as bicycle safety and fun nutrition education activities funded by the Wilkes-Barre City Health Department. Park counselors provided by ResCare Workforce Services will be in the parks to supervise activities and serve the healthy foods which are provided by the Commission on Economic Opportunity and Wilkes-Barre City provides well maintained parks and play equipment.
The Food and Fun at the Park sites include:
- Coal Street Park: Coal and North Sherman Streets.
- Iron Triangle Playground: Corner of Hickory and Metcalf Streets.
- Frances Slocum Park: Corner of N. Pennsylvania Ave. and Scott Street.
- Huber Park: Stanton and Huber Streets.
- Parsons Park: On Scott Street just after Matson Street
- Miner Park: In South Wilkes-Barre on Old River Road by Kistler Elementary School.
- Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA: 40 West Northampton Street. Note: Space at the Y site is limited to the first 40 children daily.
To learn more about the Food and Fun at the Park program call the Y at 570-823-2191 or download this flyer.