Center County YMCA summer luncheons return with fewer venues

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Children enjoy milk, a ham and cheese sandwich, apples, carrots and a snack at Howard Elementary School in June 2017 as part of the YMCA’s summer lunch program.

Center Daily Times, file

On June 30, federal free school lunch waivers are set to expire, dramatically curtailing the US Department of Agriculture’s summer food service program. In Center County, that means there will be fewer sites for the YMCA’s summer lunch program, which offers free lunches to children 18 and under.

Mel Curtis, director of anti-hunger programs for the YMCA of Center County, fears half of the children fed last year will be fed this summer as food distribution sites lose eligibility for federal reimbursement. The change also means that all meals must be eaten on site this summer.

The YMCA is in the process of getting additional sites approved for USDA reimbursement or otherwise funded, according to its website.

“How to put a price on a child?” Curtis said, frustrated by the loss of federal waivers. “How can you say, we know you’re hungry, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Inflation and rising gas prices have compounded the problems caused by the loss of federal funds, forcing more families to need help from hunger relief programs. The federal waiver program is needed now more than ever, Curtis said. The demographics of the program have also changed in recent years.

“A lot of people think it’s all people living in poverty and that’s not the case,” Curtis said. “The average person we see today is the working class family. And that’s really the scary and sad thing, because inflation has torn those families apart.

Supply chain issues and a looming global food crisis are also driving up the cost of food. Unexpectedly, rural areas, where most food is grown, often have higher rates of food insecurity, according to data from the Food Research and Action Center.

The YMCA and Penn State Health are targeting these areas with high food insecurity, planning a joint Snow Shoe project on June 18. Snow Shoe is considered a food and sanitation wasteland, with residents having to travel miles to reach Bellefonte or State College. for medical care or large grocery stores.

The YMCA is also hosting a series of drive-through food drives for all ages across the county, with a full list of days and locations on the YMCA website.

Food insecurity isn’t often visible, Curtis said, and large-scale community efforts are the best way to help families in need.

“If people come together and put their arms around their community, it’s going to make a community so much stronger,” Curtis said. “And that’s what people really, really need to learn.”

The summer feeding sites listed below are open from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, starting June 13.

  • Beaver farms — 121 alley of the beaver farm, Bellefonte

  • Bellefonte YMCA — 125 W. High St., Bellefonte

  • Elemental Pleasant Gap — 230 S. Main St., Pleasant Gap

  • Penns Valley YMCA — 115 W. Streamside Place, Spring Mills

  • YMCA State College – 677 W. Whitehall Road, State College

  • Moshannon Valley YMCA — 113 N. 14th St., Philipsburg

  • Calvary United Methodist Church — 167 Blue Ball Road, West Decatur

  • Osceola United Methodist Church — 303 Curtin St., Osceola Mills

  • Philipsburg Elementary School — 1810 Black Moshannon Road, Philipsburg

  • Elementary Howard — 255 School Street, Howard

  • Miles Trailer Park — Peppermint Way, Julian

  • Mountaintop Area Elementary School — 100 School Drive, snowshoes

  • Port Matilda Elementary School — 209 Locust Street, Port Matilda

  • Wingate Primary School — 751 S. Eagle Valley Road, Wingate

  • wreck center — 800 Hannah Street, Houtzdale

  • West Branch School — Clipping from 516 Allport, Morrisdale

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Keely Doll is an education reporter and service reporter for the Center Daily Times. She previously worked for the Columbia Missourian and The Independent UK.

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