I first met Lisa as she walked into the YMCA of Greater Rochester with her youngest child still in a stroller, and her preschooler toddling along. For Lisa, planning three meals for her family every day was something that she could not afford as a single mother of three.
Fresh fruits and vegetables – a staple in a healthy diet for growing kids – were an expensive luxury. Toward the end of every month, she was left worried and afraid that she wouldn’t be able to put any food on the table.
Unfortunately, Lisa’s story is not unique. In Monroe County, New York, there are over 100,000 people living with food insecurity. In addition, only one in six low-income children nationwide who relied on free and reduced school lunches participated in a summer nutrition program last year, according to the Food Research and Action Center.
Lisa and her girls started coming to the YMCA of Greater
Rochester in 2013, where we were able to offer a solution to her family. We
provide local children free access to nutritious meals during the day including
breakfast, lunch and healthy snacks. For moms like Lisa, it’s a tremendous
relief as they no longer have to worry about where their kids’ next meals are
Our facility is one of many YMCAs in 2,300 communities nationwide benefitting from a $5.3 million national grant from the Walmart Foundation that enabled the expansion of yearlong food programs. This grant is part of a group of grants made by the Walmart Foundation, totaling $15.5 million, to support free meal and nutrition programs. These grants mean so much to so many families this time of year, as children are out of school and without access to school meals and the daily routines they count on.
Today, things are improving for Lisa and her family. She graduated from college with honors this May and already has a job as a pharmacy tech at a local hospital. She credits our YMCA program with giving her the support and peace of mind that she needed while finishing her degree. Lisa now is also able to give back. Many times, I’ve seen Lisa and her daughters bring clothing to our facility in the hopes that other families will benefit.
Lisa and her girls still come to the YMCA each
morning, and I talk to her about her plans for her daughters, who she says will
grow up to change the world. I bet that dream will come true.