YMCA food service program serves up fun

Dameon Metz, 11, and Constian Metz, 12, plant seeds and enjoy sandwiches at Fifth Street Park as part of the Milton Branch YMCA’s Summer Food Service Program, alongside AmeriCorps food programs coordinator Lalitha Durlin.

MILTON — Every Wednesday as part of the Milton YMCA’s Summer Food Service Program, a “Fun Menu” of activities will be offered for free, along with lunches to children who attend the Milton locations for meal distribution.

The YMCA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is offering free meals to all children ages 1 to 18 each weekday, until Aug. 19, at sites around Milton and the surrounding area. These free meals are designed to help supplement the lack of school lunches during the summer months. Started in 1992, the program now serves 27 different sites throughout the area, with between 450 and 550 lunches distributed each day.

Activities each Wednesday include flower planting, water days, family photo shoots, stained glass-style sidewalk chalk, STEM learning, cookie jar making and painting. Children who attend a certain number of the activity days will receive special prizes based on how many they participated in.

Lalitha Durlin, AmeriCorps food programs coordinator for the Y, said the activities offer an extra incentive for children to take advantage of the free meals available through the food service program in their neighborhoods.

“We’re just trying to give some relief to parents in the community for having to feed their kids everyday for lunch,” said Durlin. “It’s free so we encourage anyone to come out.”

Dameon Metz, 11, and Constian Metz, 12, said they enjoy being able to get out of the house during the summer to participate in activities that are within walking distance for them.

“There’s fun, food and exercise,” said Constian.

“And the meals are really great,” added Dameon.

Durlin said just this week the Y began distribution in the Turbotville area, including at the Exchange pool and local middle schools. She said this is the first year since the pandemic that in-person SFSP distribution has been possible. Previously, five-day bagged lunches were available for pickup by parents.

“It’s expanding, and we’re really excited that we can actually get back in person now,” she said.

“The Milton YMCA is happy to take the activities available in the Y outside of the walls and share the fun to the community. Pairing the activities with a healthy lunch through SFSP assures that each child receives a well-balanced meal when school is not in session,” said Ron Marhsall, executive director at the Milton YMCA. “The Y is proud of our ability to provide these meals and help parents stretch their dollar in these uncertain economic times.”

Meal distribution sites around Milton include Brown Avenue Park, Columbia Avenue Playground, Milton Village, Mahoning Acres, Fifth Street Playground and the Milton Public Library. More information on locations and meal times can be found on the Milton YMCA Facebook page.

Staff writer Matt Stulberg can be reached at 570-742-9671 ext. 114 or email matts@standard-journal.com.

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