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Packing meals

September is Hunger Action Month. The Y believes all kids deserve the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive — and access to healthy meals is critical to making that possible. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 21 million kids receive free or reduced-cost meals, but only 3.2 million continue to receive meals through the summer. 

Kids and teens benefit from the Y’s Year-Round Food Program at thousands of sites across the country, where they receive nutritious meals and snacks, plus enjoy recreational and educational activities to keep their bodies and minds active.

For many years, participants in the Y’s Service Without Boundaries program have embedded themselves in the community by helping area organizations and giving back. Service Without Boundaries (SWB) is a day program that supports adults with disabilities through weekly activities at the Y and in the community, including regular visits to the Oconomowoc Library to dust shelves and work on special projects, sorting donated food at the Oconomowoc Food Pantry, and a multitude of other projects/activities in collaboration with Zachariah’s Acres.

In 2021, a new opportunity to serve developed from an ongoing partnership with the Watertown Unified School District, along with a generous food grant from the Quirk Foundation. Funds received from the grant made it possible to provide weekend food bags to all Y campers as well as families in need in the Watertown community.

Each week throughout the summer, the SWB group would organize and pack nutritious, easy to prepare weekend meals, including fresh fruit and vegetables, into take home bags and deliver them to the Watertown Area YMCA Camp. The take-home food bags were distributed to camp families on Friday afternoons, and extra food bags were available for pick up at the Watertown Area YMCA for those in need in the community. The weekend food bag program was designed to bridge the gap between the meals provided by the school district during the week. It’s estimated that 715 weekend food packs were provided during the summer of 2021 to families in the Watertown area and was so successful that it was continued in summer of 2022.

Service Without Boundaries, along with other offerings in our special programs line up, also have a broader impact on the families of participants by providing much needed respite time for caregivers so they have the ability to work and care for themselves and other family members, all while their loved one is cared for by Y staff. In 2021 alone, 28,512 hours of respite time was provided while program participants gained independence, made friends, and made a difference in the community.