By Kathy Collins
This summer, YMCAs in the greater Brandon and SouthShore areas have partnered with Hillsborough County Public Schools to offer a free summer food program to any child through the age of 18. The Summer Food Program is available from Monday, June 13 through Friday, August 5. Meal times vary at each Y, so visit www.tampaymca.org/programs/camp/summer for more information.
While children need programs during the summer to keep them active and prevent them from falling behind in school, children cannot focus when they are hungry. Children who rely on free or reduced lunches during the school year are at risk of going hungry when school is not in session. In partnership with Hillsborough County Public Schools, the Y’s Summer Food Program helps fill the gap for many children who rely on low cost lunches during the school year. Last summer, the Y’s program served more than 135,000 meals and 200,000 snacks. According to Lalita Llerena, communications director for the Tampa Area YMCAs, “We have provided free summer meals to our campers and community children for years, but this is the first year that the Y has partnered with the school district to provide this program.”
In addition to the Summer Food Program, area YMCAs will also offer Go For Green drowning prevention program at no extra charge to campers this summer. The Y’s Go For Green program provides free swim lessons to Y summer campers who are unable to pass the swim test. They receive free swim lessons throughout the summer until they can pass the test and get a green wristband. The program is made possible due to support from the Tampa Bay Rays, United Way Suncoast and the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County.
“When kids are out of school, they can face hurdles that prevent them from reaching their full potential, related to hunger, water safety, academics, safe spaces to play and health,” said Rob Gray, vice president of operations for the Family Y at Big Bend Road. “Through summer camp and other youth development programs, the Y helps youth achieve more, providing a safe place to learn, stay healthy and build friendships.”
For more information about these programs, visit www.tampaymca.org.