Children still can get free meals after school at Allentown YMCA branch
For the first full school year, local students in need can head to the Allentown branch of the Greater Valley YMCA for a free meal after the final bell.
The after-school dinner program in Allentown, first launched in March, is a “pilot” before an eventual rollout across the YMCA’s other Lehigh Valley locations, said David Fagerstrom, president and CEO of the Greater Valley YMCA.
“Where we’ve been told the need is greatest, that’s where we’re starting,” he said.
It is also part of a broader effort by the regional YMCA to make meal programs for low-income children available year-round, rather than just during the summer.
This summer, the Greater Valley YMCA more than doubled its offerings in the second year of its summer meals program, both in terms of the number of locations and the number of meals served. The program expanded from five locations to 12 across the Lehigh Valley, serving 3,700 meals in the first year and 13,253 meals to children under 18 this summer, according to a recent announcement.
The expansion of the YMCA’s summer food program was made possible through more than a dozen local partnerships, said chief communications officer Emily Mullen.
At the same time, this summer the city created five new sites for its federally funded program, including the Allentown branch of the YMCA.
In March, the YMCA launched its after-school dinner program alongside Allentown’s announcement of a meal initiative called Firehouse Fridays at the Hibernia Fire Station — an extension of the city’s federal free lunch program.
The city received a $125,000 grant last August to expand after-school meal programs. Through Firehouse Fridays, children can get a free meal from 3 to 4 p.m. at the fire station every Friday during the school year.
The Greater Valley YMCA’s after-school meal program at the Allentown branch on 15th Street is five days a week, between 4 and 5 p.m., for children from any school district. Once the summer meals program ends Friday at the Allentown branch, the afterschool meal program begins, Fagerstrom said.
He said the branch expects to serve about 50 children a day but will be able to expand as necessary, as the program is made possible through a federal reimbursement program. The program is also supported by donors who want to see this mission continue, he said.
“If we need to ramp up our capacity, then we will,” he said.
The meals include a variety of vegetables, fruit and whole grains, and minimize added sugar and saturated fat.
Morning Call reporter Kayla Dwyer can be reached at 610820-6554 or at kdwyer @mcall.com.