Alfond Youth Center introduces food program

The Alfond Youth and Community Center has added the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to its extensive list of services. The CACFP is a federal program that reimburses child care centers, day care homes, and adult day care centers for providing healthy meals and snacks. The program provides assistance to afterschool programs, emergency shelters, and adults with disabilities as well. 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s website, the CACFP “contributes to the wellness, healthy growth, and development of young children and adults in the United States.” More than 4.2 million children and 130,000 adults benefit from the program each day.

The Alfond Youth and Community Center houses both a YMCA and a Boys and Girls Club, which makes it the only place in the United States to contain both. Since quality child care and community building are its primary missions, the Alfond Center felt obligated to adopt the program. 

In an email to the Echo Jared McCannell, Grants Manager at the Alfond Center, was asked about the CACFP. McCannell believes the CACFP is a “natural fit” for the Alfond Center. 

“With almost 60% of youth in the Waterville area eligible for Free or Reduced lunch, it just makes sense that we would extend meal opportunities to our youth in a safe and nourishing environment like our licensed After School Program,” McCannell said.

The Alfond Center serves around 250 youth per day and enrolls approximately 400 of them total.

McCannell recalled a time when a child told the staff “that the meal they have at Alfond Youth and Community Center is the last hot meal they will get for the week until school lunch on Monday.” 

This child’s experience and others like it prompted the Alfond Center to fully embrace the CACFP and to launch the Supplemental Weekend Nutrition Program, which sends home enough food for a family of four to have two meals per day over the weekend. This program complements the CACFP and allows the Alfond Center to provide meals every day of the week. The center also offers “doubles bags” to families with more than four members. 

The Weekend Program is free and McCannell commented that “by making the program open to all, they are reducing the stigma that some families might feel [when] accepting free food.” 

The Alfond Center offers the Summer Food Service Program as well. It hosts summer meals at open and closed sites which intend to target a specific population. The Alfond Center has a nondiscrimination statement, which can be accessed on its site.

Along with eliminating hunger in the Waterville area, the Alfond Center aims to promote healthy eating habits. According to McCannell, through its Garden to Table program, the center “involves youth in the growing, harvesting and preparation of food served right here on site.”

“This coming year we will be opening a new Community Garden across the street from our main location on North Street for local families to use that want to grow their own produce. We recently received a $2800 grant from Healthy Waterville to revitalize the soil in our gardens,” McCanell added.

Describing yet another program related to food, McCanell explained that “We will be coupling our expanding garden program with our new Community Teaching Kitchen for those that want to participate in hands-on learning experiences with their own home grown food! Our goal is to leverage every resource available to make sure that no one goes hungry in our service area.”