A basic need of all life is food. Regardless of what life-form you take, you must have nutrients to sustain operations. As humans, food is so much more than a basic input. It is comfort; it is celebration; for many, it is even a hobby or pursuit. However, there are many people who do not even have sustenance on a regular basis, let alone the luxury of visiting the latest boutique food truck.
In 2017, the California Food Policy Advocates reported 1.4 M* adults and 573,000 children in Los Angeles County suffer from food insecurity. In our service area, approximately 1 in 3 households qualifies as food insecure. The rate at which food insecurity affects families of color is elevated, and our community is nearly 80% Latino. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Health, food insecurity during childhood can lead to delayed development, diminished academic performance, impaired social skills, and early onset of obesity.
At the YMCA of Greater Whittier, we realized that our local community had a documented need of support in this area and in 2018 we underwent the rigorous process to become a provider for the Federal Food Program. Implementing this program at our Y was critical for supporting all aspects of Youth Development, as approximately 90% of those receiving meals snacks have been early learners under 5 and young people ages 5-13.
Since our certification in March 2018, Florie Harrison, Director of Compliance and leader of our food program, has worked diligently to implement and improve processes that help us adhere to the stringent guidelines required by the federal grant associated with the program. Our YMCA works with a nutritionist to ensure that menus are balanced and palatable by people and especially children from a variety of cultures. The content and the number of each meal or snack must be logged for reporting and Youth Development staff were trained in food preparation.
We have served more than 70,000 meals and snacks to our community since adopting the program in March 2018. This year, we brought the food program to YMCA Camp Arbolado, which became a summer feeding site in June 2019. These expanded needs necessitated hiring a cook, which will support our future aspirations to begin providing this service to seniors in our community.
Implementing this program at our Y has been an inspirational journey. Our team at the YMCA of Greater Whittier is proud to be providing this critical and fundamental building block to strengthening bodies, minds and spirit for ALL and especially those in our community who are most in need.