SUMMIT, NJ - Three 'Healthy Kids Nights' -- each designed to provide food insecure families in Summit with healthy food and their children with healthy play -- were hosted during August at Mabie Playground by The Summit Area YMCA, The Connection, G.R.A.C.E.'s Refrigerator, The Summit Area Public Foundation (SAPF) and The Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
At the events, G.R.A.C.E.’s farm stand allowed children to pick from an assortment of fresh and nutrient dense produce provided by the Community FoodBank, made possible through a portion of a $45,000 grant from SAPF. Additional healthy snacks were generously donated by MySuperFoods, while the YMCA and The Connection coordinated activities to encourage healthy play including Zumba, soccer and an obstacle course for the children.
Previously, the Summit Public Schools reported that 15% of all enrolled students in the District are eligible for the free or reduced-fee lunch program. The administration also has stated that food insecurity among Summit’s children is far more pervasive. In addition, only one Summit elementary school qualifies for the federally funded breakfast program and yet all of the Summit schools have students in need of free breakfast. Food insecure families are especially vulnerable during the summer months.
“Summer stretches any family’s budget," said Amanda Block, founder of G.R.A.C.E. "When parents no longer have the safety net of school meals and activities, parents with limited income are forced to make difficult decisions. Can they pay all their bills and cover all the extra leisure activities and snacks the season demands? We created Healthy Kids Night so that all families can have a blast together and bring home nutritious food without the financial burden.”
Emily Mimms, Vice President of Development for the Summit Area YMCA, was in attendance at the first 'Healthy Kids Night' and noted, “It was wonderful to have so many of the local nonprofits combine forces to address such an important issue facing the community. 'For a Better Us' is more than a slogan. It’s why the YMCA is here to serve the community, guaranteeing everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive.”
"Thanks to the generosity of the Summit Area Public Foundation, the FoodBank is able to assemble more Family Packs for Summit families in need, in addition to expanding our food and diaper distributions to members of the community," said Carlos Rodriguez, President & CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. "Their support for fresh produce, in particular, is in line with our efforts to address hunger as a health issue."
The SAPF was the catalyst for the formation of the 'Summit Hunger Coalition', a group of local nonprofits — which also included The Area Baby Center, Bridges Outreach, Summit Helping Its People (SHIP) and the Loaves and Fishes Pantry of Saint Teresa of Avila Church The Area Baby Center, Bridges Outreach, Summit Helping Its People (SHIP), and Loaves and Fishes of Saint Teresa’s of Avila – working together to address food insecurity in Summit. In addition to the 'Healthy Kids Nights', the nonprofits distributed backpacks of food to children in need enrolled in area summer camps provided by the FoodBank.
Community members who are in need are directed to reference The Summit Hunger Coalition’s Food, Supplies and Financial Assistance Directory at theSAY.org/supportmap.
Individuals interested in volunteering for the Family Backpack Program are asked to call Patty Facchinei at the Summit YMCA at 908-273-3330, ext. 1174. contact Patty.Facchinei@theSAY.org or visit theSAY.org/familybpp.