Hopkins County Family YMCA in Madisonville has a food program that ensures meals for children all over the county, year-round.

The YMCA Food Program started over 30 years ago when community members Ed Wallace and Charles Gant realized a need for the youth of the county to receive a meal and some positive adult interaction, specifically in the summer months. It was then, that the YMCA joined the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

A van was loaded with sports equipment and cold meal options, such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, vegetables, fruit and milk. Wallace and Gant set up locations where there were plenty of children living close enough to walk to the site to grab something to eat.

A few years later, the YMCA joined the Child And Adult Food Program (CACFP), which helped provide the child care participants breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack.

“These programs do what I call, recycled money,” Michelle Hale, YMCA Food Program Coordinator said. “You spend the money on the supplies for the meals and they in turn reimburse us for the meals served. It’s a break even or we spend a little more than we receive back.”

A few years later the program continued to grow and even more sites for both programs became available. Grants were received to help grow the programs and to make sure that meals were prepared and available to the children in need of Hopkins County.

“We started using a mobile route to deliver meals and fun because participants would come eat with us then return to their homes. This allowed us to open more sites and reach more kids than we were just driving our own vehicle to the site and setting up a two hour site. When I took over the coordinator position in 2015 we served roughly 40,000 meals a year to about 500 of our county youth and it was the foundation on which the program was able to grow. We now have 3-4 routes during the summer, 55 sites, some are camps and VBS programs that wish to serve their participants a meal or snack,” Hale said.

The Food Program has come a long way over the past thirty years, and now serves a lot of hot meal options for the children.

Some examples would be our orange chicken and steamed veggies and rice with chopsticks and a fortune cookie of course, chicken alfredo, spaghetti and meatballs, walking tacos, BBQ chicken pizza, chicken quesadillas, and some cold awesome choices are chef salads (the kids actually loved them) peanut butter and banana sushi and chicken caesar wraps.

The program runs year round, but the summer months seem to be the most busy, according to Hale.

During the summer, there are sites at the YMCA, local apartment complexes, mobile home parks, neighborhoods where a family will let the YMCA use their front yard as a meeting place. These sites are in Madisonville, Earlington, Nortonville, St. Charles and Dawson Springs.

Being a sponsor means that during the school year, if a program has the opportunity to feed their participants and have their own kitchen, they can do a site set-up and get their kitchen inspected by the health department.

This allows them to serve the kids safely. It also ensures that with the proper paperwork and guidelines followed, they are reimbursed for their meals.

If you are looking to participate or help out this summer, please call the Hopkins County Family YMCA and ask for Michelle Hale, 270-821-9622.