McGaw YMCA Feeds Families and Fuels Potential with Year-Round Food Program

Through partnerships with local and national foundations, the Y serves healthy meals and snacks to kids and families in YMCA programs throughout the year.

EVANSTON, IL – Throughout the year, the McGaw YMCA has been working to address hunger in Evanston by ensuring that every child in YMCA programs has access to healthy meals and snacks.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one in four children in the U.S. is currently facing hunger—nearly double what it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. As individuals and families continue to face the rising cost of food and other expenses, hunger continues to be a substantial challenge in Evanston and across the country. The YMCA is working to fill that gap.

A YMCA staff member filling bags of food

McGaw YMCA Family Service Manager Muriel Dorsey-Johnson prepares Grab-and-go Meal bags for distribution to Y families.

The Y’s Food Program is part of a year-round effort to address child hunger. The McGaw Y distributes healthy meals and snacks to thousands of youth and families enrolled in its child care, preschool, Head Start, and School’s Out afterschool programs through the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Summer meals are distributed through the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Program expansion has been made possible by support from the YMCA of the USA, foundations, and individual community donors like The Woman’s Club of Evanston.

Starting in 2020, amid school closures related to COVID-19, the McGaw Y provided 800 free Grab-and-go Meals to children ages 18 and under to ensure all kids had uninterrupted access to healthy and nutritious foods.

In 2021, thanks to funding made possible by Jewel-Osco Foundation, the McGaw YMCA expanded its response to food insecurity. Throughout the spring and summer, the Y distributed Grab-and-go Meals, Weekend Backpacks, Farmers to Families Boxes, and Grocery Gift Cards to program participants, providing 78,000 healthy meals in Evanston.

This year, the Y has provided nearly 164,000 healthy meals to Evanston children and families in Y programs. Additionally, free Grab-and-go Meals and Weekend Backpack Meals were distributed to all families in the Y’s Head Start and School’s Out Afterschool Program at the Family Focus Building. McGaw Y’s Food Program is expected to distribute approximately 167,000 healthy meal options to youth and families enrolled in Y child care, preschool, Head Start, and School’s Out afterschool programs throughout the 2022-23 school year.

The most longstanding partner of the Y’s Food Program is the Walmart Foundation. With their support the YMCA can continue to provide food to Evanston children to help ensure they get the nutrition they need to succeed in school and reach their full potential.

“For more than 136 years, the McGaw YMCA has supported families in the Evanston area, and while COVID-19 may have changed the landscape, it didn’t change our mission,” says Nicole Woodard, McGaw Y’s Chief Operating Officer. “We remain committed to ensuring kids in our community have ongoing access to nutritious foods, no matter what.”

Learn more about the Y’s child care and education programs.

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