The Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA of Greater Waterville at the Alfond Youth Center recently announced it received a grant and recognition for the second year in a row from Washington, D.C.’s United Fresh Start Foundation. The foundation awarded $50,000 through its 2018 Community Grants Program to 20 programs across the U.S. that increase children’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

The program has extended the foundation’s focus to beyond the school day, and awarded community programs across the country that provide access to fresh fruit and vegetables afterschool, on weekends and during summer breaks. Grant recipients included various hunger-fighting and Boys & Girls Club programs from 11 states, including California, Washington, Arizona, Utah, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida and Maine.

“Communities across the country are tackling food insecurity, childhood hunger and children’s poor health in creative ways. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables is essential to the success of these efforts,” said Kate Olender, senior director of health and wellness at United Fresh, according to a news release from the center. “We are pleased to support these organizations in ensuring children have access to the nutrition they need to grow up into healthy adults. We’re also thankful to the industry for their support through generous contributions to the foundation which allow us to, in turn, support these community programs.”

“We are thrilled to receive this honor and recognition,” said Ken Walsh, CEO of Alfond Youth Center in Waterville, according to the release. “Since building the Growing Dome our Garden to Table program has grown leaps and bounds.” The program serves more than 60,000 free, hot, nutritious meals and snacks annually, sends more than 225 Weekend Meals Backpacks home every Friday during the school year. The Afterschool Program serves more than 200 youth daily, 80 percent of whom experience food insecurity and attend the AYC programs for free, according to the release.

“By teaching these kids a healthy lifestyle and providing them with fresh produce as a daily part of their diet we create positive change with lasting effects,” said Walsh, according to the release. “And this work is only possible with the generous support of partners like United Fresh Start Foundation.”

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