Boys & Girls Club staff can usually tell when a family is struggling to make ends meet. But when several Club kids started taking extra food bags at the Boys & Girls Club of Mosholu Montefiore Community Center, staff realized families were facing chronic food insecurity.
According to Feeding America, 1 in 6 children experience food insecurity, and 13 million children in the U.S. aren’t getting enough to eat.
And at Boys & Girls Clubs, 60% of Club kids rely on free or reduced-price school lunches.
For Clubs located in a food desert, meaning residents have little to no access to healthy and affordable food options nearby, it’s even more critical that Club kids have dependable and healthy food sources.
The Boys & Girls Club of Mosholu Montefiore Community Center is located in the Bronx, New York, where the community has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country. The Club’s Director of Youth Services, Tashan Dawkins, explained that food insecurity is one of the Club's biggest challenges when it comes to serving its 585 kids across three locations.
"Many parents lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and families continue to rely on food pantries and community resources to feed their families,” said Tashan. “Being able to provide our kids with access to nutritious food at all our locations helps ease that burden for Club kids and families.”
Tashan’s Club is one of 40 across the country that received a refrigerator and a grant to stock it with healthy, nutritious food as part of Maytag’s Feel Good Fridge program. The program is designed to help Club kids and families access much-needed food whenever they need it.
At Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha, the Maytag Feel Good Fridge is located in the teen center for Club youth to practice life skills including grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking. Teens are discovering that carrots, spinach and yogurt are both nutritious and tasty.
"When you come to the Club, you are open to trying new, healthier foods that you may not get at home," said Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha member Janiya Y.
Erasing the Stigma of Food Insecurity
For many young people, food insecurity evokes feelings of shame and sadness. But Tashan’s Club is normalizing conversations about having enough food to eat. Staff want kids to know it’s okay to tell someone if they’re hungry or don’t have enough food at home.
“At our Club, we talk about how we’re a family here, and families take care of each other. We want to know when our kids need extra help, especially regarding food," said Tashan. “We bag food from our refrigerators and leave it on the tables so kids can take whatever they want — no questions asked. We’re always looking out for our kids’ dignity.”
More Than a Meal
Kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Mosholu Montefiore Community Center are learning how to make better food choices so they can grow into healthy adults and achieve their potential.
But the impact of having access to healthy food goes way beyond Club doors — it continues with kids’ families and, in turn, the greater Bronx community.
"Not only do the Maytag refrigerators help combat food insecurity, our Club kids are learning how to make better choices for themselves through the food they eat, and they're taking what they learn into their homes and teaching family members to do the same. Those people share information with others they know. It's a domino effect," said Tashan.
The lessons these Club kids are learning about healthy food will help influence generations to come. As Tashan said, "We know these kids will eventually grow up and leave the Club, but at least we know the Maytag Feel Good Fridge program made a difference while they were here. What more could you ask for?"
You Can Keep More Kids Fed, Fueled and Focused
For nearly 2 in 3 Boys & Girls Club kids, breakfast and lunch are something they only get at school. Many rely on their Club for nutritious snacks and meals, especially during the summer months. Your support can help fight the food insecurity many of these kids face each day so they can focus on their next great moment, not their next meal.