Hunger in Door County is an under-appreciated problem and in recognition of this county-wide challenge, the Door County YMCA started an effort six years ago to make certain local children did not go hungry during the summer vacation. Through a partnership with other local nonprofit organizations, businesses, churches and individual donors, the Y created a Summer Foods Program focused on providing nutritious breakfasts, lunches and/or snacks during the three-month summer break.
The program is offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Foods Program and serves anyone 18 years of age and younger a healthy meal or snack. The Y serves 11 sites in Door and Kewaunee counties.
According to Tom Beerntsen, Door County YMCA CEO, this year’s program served about 400 meals and snacks per day during the 12 weeks of summer. “People generally do not understand that Door County is not a universally wealthy county. There are many kids and families who simply do not have enough food to feed their families,” said Beerntsen. “For the Y, and the larger community, this is one of the very best mission-based programs.”
This year, the Y teamed with the Boys and Girls Club to use their new kitchen facilities and engage their chef to work beside the Y staff team to provide the best meals possible to participants. This coordinated partnership with the local Boys and Girls Club helped support their year-round meals program by employing their chef through the summer. The Boys and Girls Club continues to be the largest recipient of the Y’s free meals program.
Beerntsen explained that for the past six years TTX Finishing Systems and the Sunshine House provided a van to help serve the remote sites. The Y is now working to raise funds to buy a replacement van since the original van has 135,000 miles on it.
The YMCA was recently notified it would receive a $10,000 Walmart grant to help with the purchase of a van. Because of the change in the intent of future Walmart grants, no YMCAs with established food programs will receive operational grants. “The good news is we have a substantial start on the effort to fund a van. The challenge is that we need to find the $30,000 we had received in prior years to operate the day-to-day program,” said Beerntsen.
Individuals, businesses, churches and other donors interested in supporting the Door County YMCA Summer Foods Program should contact Beerntsen at [email protected] or 920.743.4949.