Chil­dren still can get free meals af­ter school at Al­len­town YMCA branch

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Kayla Dwyer

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.

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