YMCA of Centre County holding Food Desert Challenge

BELLEFONTE — More than a million Americans live in a “food desert,” meaning they live in an area where people need to travel over half a mile in urban areas or over 10 miles in a rural area to access healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

To bring attention to this issue, from Dec. 5-7, the YMCA is  challenging Centre County residents to participate in the YMCA’s Food Desert Challenge.

For three days, community members are challenged to only spend $5 a day at a convenience store, gas station or corner store. The Y hopes participants will walk away from the experience with a new-found understanding of what it means to live with food insecurity.

Those who participate in the Y’s Food Desert Challenge are encouraged to talk about their experience both with their families and on social media using the hashtags #FoodDesertChallenge and #TheYFeedsKids.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2014 48.1 million Americans –of which 15.3 million are children under 18 — lived in a household with food insecurity, defned as being unable to consistently access nutritious and adequate amounts of food necessary for a healthy life. No community is safe from food insecurity; it exists in every county in the U.S. ranging from 4 percent of the population in Slope County, N.D. to 33 percent in Humphreys County, Miss.

“Children within our own community rely on free and low-cost lunch plans during the school year, and they’re at risk of going hungry when school’s not in session,” said Mel Curtis, Moshannon Valley YMCA branch director. “The Food Desert Challenge is an opportunity for parents and caregivers to talk to their children about hunger, and to think about ways that they can help people here in Centre County who face hunger on a daily basis.”

The Y is dedicated to nurturing the potential of all youth, but hungry children cannot reach their full potential without help. Research shows that without enough nourishment, children do more poorly in school and have lower academic achievement because they are not prepared for school and cannot concentrate.

“The YMCA of Centre County works to ensure that all children achieve their potential by offering programs that feed children physically, as well as mentally,” said Mel Curtis.

The YMCA of Centre County Anti-Hunger Program consists of the Weekend Backpack Program, Free Summer Lunch Program, Super Snacks at the Afterschool Program and our Christmas Program.

To find out more about these programs contact Mel Curtis at mcurtis@ymcaocc.org or call 814-342-0889.