Food & Nutrition Program
About the Program
YWCA Central Maine’s Food & Nutrition Program was established in 2017 to address food insecurity of children in the Lewiston-Auburn communities by offering wholesome and nutritious meals and snacks to children in our care year-round, as well as free meals for families with children in the community through summer meal programs. At YWCA Central Maine, because our programs are developed in line with our mission to create equitable, just, and dignified resources for all, we believe that offering food to families in need is not only essential for continued health and well-being, but should also be done in a dignified manner. Therefore, a primary objective of our comprehensive Food & Nutrition program is to ensure all children attending our childcare programs, as well as the children and families we serve in the community through other programs, have equal access to fresh, healthy, well-balanced, and delicious breakfast, lunches, and snacks each day, regardless of socioeconomic barriers.
By the Numbers
Throughout the year, our program offers two meals per day and one snack for all children in our Early Childhood Education center; after school snacks to school-aged children during the school year; and two meals per day and one snack to school-aged children during school closures (such as vacation days and school closure days). This amounts to more than 54,000 meals and snacks we provided to children in our care each year. Additionally, our Food & Nutrition Program began offering meals to the community in the summer of 2019, serving 373 dinners at family-focused events in partnership with the Lewiston Police Department, in addition to the breakfasts, lunches, and snacks we were providing on site.
When the schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we immediately became a community meal pick-up site for families with children, providing the community—who are not even affiliated with the YWCA more than 300 additional meals per week in March, April, and May 2020. Along with our on-site meals (which we also expanded to serve the school-aged children in our care during school closures), we served 3,978 meals in April 2020 alone!
While these numbers are impressive alone, the need is far greater than what we are able to provide at our current capacity. Food insecurity is disproportionately high in Lewiston, Maine as the median household income is below the national average and the poverty rate is 21.4 percent, according to the most recently reported census data. Prior to piloting the YWCA Food & Nutrition program in October 2017, YWCA staff noted that many preschool children came to our Early Learning Center with lunches that were calorically inadequate, low in nutritional value, and highly-processed—or with little to no food at all.
Feeding the Future
In addition to addressing the immediate, short-term concerns of food insecurity for children and families, YWCA Central Maine’s Food & Nutrition programs also prioritizes longer-term outcomes through the introduction of new foods to expand children’s exposure to a variety of flavors and textures, as well as providing nutrition education, gardening, and cooking opportunities for children in our care. We believe this will help to break cycles of food insecurity and reliance on highly processed and nutritionally inadequate foods, which is systemic in communities with high poverty rates, especially those in urban environments where access to fresh food is scarcer. It is our goal that this will help children to learn more about food and nutrition as a regular part of our childcare educational curriculum, which are lessons that will be transformative and last a lifetime. In alignment with our mission to eliminate racism, all foods are prepared in a culturally responsive manner: we try not only to adjust food needs for allergies and special diets, but also for cultural and religious preferences.
🥭ALL meat in these meals will be halal
🥭Following our COVID-19 protocols, the meals will be served to-go (pickup in our lower parking lot between 5p-6p)
🥭You do NOT need to be a member of the YWCA to request food!
Please share widely throughout the community – translations of this flyer will be shared soon.
Do you want to share food from your culture? Prepare it in our kitchen to distribute to families! We will provide all ingredients you need and a small payment for your time. Please email Amanda for more information.