Stories & News
Each year, Missouri’s 24 YMCA associations serve over 130,000 children through our various programs and services. Prior to the pandemic, our Ys annually served over 500,000 healthy meals and snacks to almost 14,000 children.
The past 18 months have brought an even greater need for healthy meals and snacks for Missouri’s kids. Missouri’s Ys responded to this challenge by offering new food programs around the state which were made possible due to waivers provided by the federal government. These waivers provided us with greater flexibility and efficiency in feeding kids and families.
As we began looking ahead past these waivers, our attention turned to advocating for changes that would allow Ys and other organizations to continue to feed kids in a more direct and efficient manner. We also recognized the need to continue our advocacy efforts to highlight the issue of food security in our state.
One such change we sought this past legislative session was to make it easier to feed kids outside of a licensed after-school program. We frequently have school-aged kids in our facilities who play ball, do homework, and overall, count on us as a safe environment after school.
We wanted to make sure that we could continue to serve as a safe environment while also responding to the nutritional needs of the children in our care. In order to provide healthy snacks and meals through the Children and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) for at-risk youth, we need federal reimbursement to make this possible. One obstacle we faced was additional state requirements to the federal minimum standards for participation in the program.
On July 15, Governor Parson signed HB 432, which will allow Missouri Ys that meet minimum federal eligibility requirements to participate in the at-risk Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP). Ys will be able to provide meals in their facilities to youth as long as minimum health and safety standards are met.
This omnibus bill has several provisions that were especially important to our YMCAs and our statewide healthy eating and active living advocacy work.
The legislative process for this particular bill and the advocacy efforts that accompany it are always a learning process. Here are some key takeaways we had from this past year.
We know this bill is not the answer to all the challenges we face regarding the equity of our food system in Missouri and our efforts to feed kids, but it is an encouraging start. Our focus will continue to be on advocating for positive changes where needed in Missouri, collaborating with our partners, and expanding our efforts to provide healthy snacks and meals to more kids in Missouri.
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