YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City

When you think of summer vacation, you may think of swimming pools, popsicles, and fun evening barbecues. After all, our kids are excited to be out of school and partaking in the worry-free summer fun, right? Unfortunately for many kids in our state, that just isn’t the case.

Instead of being filled with energy and joy about the break from school, summer vacation can be a scary time when many families don’t have the certainty and peace of mind of knowing where their next meal will come from. Instead of dad grilling burgers out back, he is driving his kids 25 minutes across town to the YMCA on the last little bit of gas in his tank just so his kids can eat. This is what hunger looks like. Instead of going to bed with excitement, knowing that she’ll wake up to her mom’s famous pancakes doused in maple syrup, your neighbor goes to sleep with an ache in her belly and wonders when she’ll eat next. This is what hunger feels like.

Over 194,800 children in Oklahoma are facing hunger. Without the stability of school provided lunch and breakfast, many of these children rely on food banks, feeding programs, and open feeding sites just for a daily meal during the summer months. The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City works hard to combat summertime hunger in our state and serves as feeing site open to the public in numerous locations across the OKC metro, Guthrie, Stillwater, and Chickasha. Last month in May 2022, YMCA locations served over 11,200 free meals and snacks to children, and we anticipate serving even more this month.

Working in our feeding programs gives you an entirely new perspective on food, consumption, and waste. Seeing a kid’s face light up with joy when they are served their favorite food is rewarding, but for someone who has never truly been hungry, working in our feeding programs has brought to light just how deep the need for feeding programs run in our state. Our friends and neighbors are struggling, and their plight was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remember this next time, when you feel that small bothersome twinge in your belly and think to yourself “What do I want for dinner tonight?” and not “will I eat dinner tonight?” Remember this and be grateful.

Written by Lyndsey Speer. Speer is the Social Responsibility Coordinator for the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City.