More than 100,000 children in Central Alabama rely upon free or reduced-price meals at school. But what happens when the school year ends in May? Thousands of children are at risk of hunger because the need for nutritious meals does not end during the summer break.
To bridge this gap, the Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama is leading an effort with the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama and the Jefferson and Walker County Health Action Partnerships to expand access to healthy summer meals for children. With support from United Way of Central Alabama, Feeding America and the Conagra Brands Foundation Hunger-Free Summer Program, the Community Food Bank has created a coordinated summer meal network so healthy lunches and snacks are provided free of charge to 1,100 children daily throughout June and July.
The Community Food Bank is collaborating with the YMCA of Greater Birmingham, A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club, Walker County Community Action, Calvary Resurrection and others to offer these free, wholesome meals five days a week at eight locations. Participating children have year-round access to the nutritious foods they need to grow strong bodies and curious minds. Together, these agencies are working to prevent summer learning loss – and making sure kids can focus on just being kids this summer!
“The YMCA is so glad to be a part of the Summer Meals Program,” said Micah Hudson from the YMCA Northeast Branch. “Children get a healthy lunch and snack each day, and our parents are able to stretch their food budget during the summer.”
As an added benefit, the menu also includes ingredients from local family farmers! Thanks to a partnership with the Farm Food Collaborative, the Community Food Bank has been able to serve children fresh, locally grown watermelon, sweet potatoes and blackberries. Taylor Hatchett (pictured below), a beginning farmer who sold peaches on her family’s farm in order to pay for college, hand-picked the blackberries on her farm in Thorsby, Alabama just days before they were served. Locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables are packaged by Valley Foods and distributed directly to the sites serving meals”I love knowing where our fruits and vegetables go and whose plates they end up on,” said Hatchett. “Even more rewarding is knowing that we fed kids who don’t have easy access to fresh local food. What a wonderful program!”
“This is a win-win!” said Kathryn Strickland, the Community Food Bank’s Executive Director. “We’re supporting Alabama farmers like Taylor with our food purchases and giving children fresh, local fruits and vegetables at peak taste and nutritional value. Kids are discovering what is good for us is also delicious!”