GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- As scorching hot water is wheeled into a room at the David Hunting YMCA in downtown Grand Rapids, the kids wait patiently, because breakfast is about to be served. Cranberries and oatmeal is the meal of choice.
The YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids is in its fourth year providing meals to children 18 and younger, without charge, while school is out. More than 21 million children across the country lose access to free or reduced-cost lunch once the school year wraps up, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The YMCA summer food program is part of a national effort to serve healthy meals and snacks to hundreds of thousands of kids across the nation who are in need.
Jack Scrimshaw is an 11-year-old who wants to play baseball full time when he's older. But to do that, he needs food and lots of it if he wants to learn, grow and thrive.
"Usually when you think of free meals, they’re not going to be good quality, but they’re good here," Scrimshaw said.
That's good news for hundreds of other area kids receiving two free meals and a snack everyday this July thanks to the YMCA's summer food program.
"It makes me feel like they care that what we eat is good for us," Scrimshaw said.
C.J. Paciencia, the food service director at the David Hunting YMCA, says the summer food program's purpose is to ensure Grand Rapids area children have access to healthy food every day.
"We found out that there is a lot of need around here," Paciencia said, adding that there is a strong need for nutrition in the summer months because there's often less access to the federally subsidized, free and reduced school lunch program.
The YMCA will serve more than 2,500 meals a day this July, providing free meals to 27 programs located in low income areas, whether from child care services to inner city baseball leagues.
Meals are provided by a grant through the Walmart Foundation that partners nationally with the YMCA.