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Grants help local YMCAs with childhood hunger programs

Walmart Foundation funds go toward childhood hunger initiatives

Published: Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 11:41 a.m. CST

DIXON – Three grants from the Walmart Foundation to Sauk Valley YMCAs are being used for childhood hunger initiatives.

On Thursday, the Dixon Family YMCA was given a check for $25,000, which will be used for its Lovett Child Development Center. In June, the Sterling-Rock Falls Family YMCA was given two grants, for a total of $55,000, to continue its Childhood Hunger Program, which provides meals during the summer.

The money granted to the Dixon YMCA will be used to help provide fresh fruit and vegetables for its day care, after-school and other programs, in addition to providing health and nutrition classes for staff and local families.

CEO Andy McFarlane said the YMCA will now have a greater ability to educate families on healthy options and alternatives.

“It’s very easy for families to pick up the fast food option more frequently than not,” he said. “It’s all about a balanced diet and healthy meals. Hopefully we’re setting the foundation for families.”

The money the Sterling-Rock Falls Family YMCA received will be used to continue and expand the program that provides free meals to children outside of the school year, said Melissa Ryan, the youth development director.

The Summer Food Program is aimed at providing healthy meals and an activity to area youths when they aren’t in school.

And because more than half of the students at Stering and Rock Falls schools are eligible for free or reduced lunches, the entire area is considered “at risk,” Ryan said, and the YMCA can provide the meals without checking income status.

For both of the YMCAs, their efforts are focused on more than just being a local gym. Healthy living, youth development and social wellness are chief goals.

“We’ve got some ability to help families who are financially in need be able to be in the programs,” McFarlane said. “Ultimately, the Y is open to all, regardless of income.”

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