By Cory Jackson, Nutrition and Wellness Director, YMCA of Western North Carolina

“I didn’t know how I was going to feed my daughter tonight,” said a mom with tears streaming down her face. She had just walked into the cafeteria of the YMCA of Avery County where she saw her child enjoying a nutritious dinner with a roomful of children who were there for an afterschool program.

The mom, a nurse in the county, went on to say that she struggles day-in and day-out to   put food on the table for her family.   The afterschool meal program at the local YMCA makes it possible for her to have one less worry and the children get to have a healthy dinner option that they may not have had otherwise.

On average, 1 in 4 children in North Carolina don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. In North Carolina’s most rural counties that number jumps even higher to 1 in 3 children. Whether it is afterschool or over the summer, too many kids are missing the opportunity to get their most basic nutrition needs met.

Smithfield Foods, the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), and the YMCA are working hard to change that by increasing awareness about the important role federal nutrition programs play in ensuring children get the nutrition they need for their healthy growth and development, and encouraging all of those eligible to participate in the programs.

In North Carolina, nonprofit, youth serving organizations have the opportunity to participate in the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Both of these USDA based programs offer reimbursement for nutritious meals served to youth 18 and under. These programs offer the chance for communities to provide a valuable safety net to children that may otherwise go hungry.

It goes without question that every child in North Carolina needs to have access to healthy meals whether they are in a populous city or a rural town. In conjunction with the YMCA and Smithfield, FRAC will be hosting several webinars and live trainings on ways organization can get involved with year round federal meal programs.

For more information, please contact Cory Jackson:

The YMCA of Western North Carolina is a grant recipient of the Rally Against Rural Hunger initiative launched by FRAC and Smithfield Foods. The initiative aims to raise awareness about rural hunger in North Carolina and across the nation and the strategies that exist to solve it.