For over 161 years, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta has provided programs and services to meet the critical needs of our community. Now in the face of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, the Y is committed to adapting our programs to meet the most pressing needs of Atlanta’s individuals and families — particularly around hunger relief and emergency childcare. It’s especially important in times like these that we work with community partners to ensure we leverage the unique strengths of everyone to have the greatest impact.
In Georgia, 62 percent qualify for free and reduced price lunch. This means they receive free or low-cost breakfast and lunch during the school week. It also means that during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are not receiving these vital services from the school district. That’s why the Y has refocused our service offerings to ensure families continue to have access to food especially during this time of crisis.
The Y already plays a significant role in meeting the needs of food insecure families in our community. We deliver hunger relief programs throughout the year: Backpack Programs that provide enough meals for an entire family on weekends; Schools Out Lunch Program that delivers lunches to low-income apartment complexes and extended stay hotels on summer break and school holidays; and food pantries that provide fresh fruits and vegetables as well as recipes to low-income families. Through these efforts, we reach more than 30,000 families each year.
Over the past week, we have worked with the following partners to refocus our hunger relief efforts to those most vulnerable to food insecurity.
Publix Super Markets: Publix has been a long-time partner of the Y. Faced with the immediate need for hunger relief, Publix is now supporting our work to serve more than 5,000 children each week while schools are closed.
Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation: For over four years, the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation’s support has been critical to expanding the Backpack Program from two branches to five branches and one early learning program site. During this pandemic, the Y is able to continue distributing backpacks, ensuring children and their families have the food they need to stay healthy.
Atlanta Community Food Bank: As a partner, the Atlanta Community Food Bank has provided food, including non-perishables, fresh produce, milk, and meat, to include in weekly backpacks as well as pop-up food pantries at branches. As the need for food grows during this pandemic, we are expanding our work with the Food Bank to increase the number of food pantries and be a distribution site for our community members struggling with food insecurity. The Northeast Cobb Family YMCA, in Marietta, is a delivery site for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Every Wednesday, the Food Bank delivers 10 pallets of food, and volunteers make 250 bags filled with food and distribute them to families in the Marietta School District.
Westside Future Fund: The Y is furthering our partnership with the Westside Future Fund to serve as a packing location to prepare food bags that will be delivered to 250 seniors in the 30314 zip code-Atlanta’s Westside.
Paran North Church: Our Cobb Ys — Northeast Cobb Family YMCA, McCleskey Family YMCA, and Northwest Cobb Family YMCA — are working with Mt. Paran North Church to provide much-needed food to low-income families living in nearby hotels and apartment complexes in Cobb County. While the church is providing food it collected as donations, the Y is organizing the packing and delivery of meals.
Atlanta Classical Academy: In addition to serving meals at Y sites, we partner with schools like the Atlanta Classical Academy to use their locations for program delivery.
Childcare for First Responders and Healthcare Providers
The Y also quickly recognized the unique role we can play to support first responders and medical professionals as the COVID-19 outbreak forced schools and daycares to close until further notice. We are working with area hospitals, the Governor’s Office, and Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning to transition our Y branches to support essential medical, first responders and those in critical roles by caring for their children during this crisis.
To meet the 2,000 children identified by our hospital partners, each center will serve approximately 80 children, ages 3-12. Childcare will be open from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. to best support caregivers’ needs. Based on guidance from the CDC on social distancing, children will be in groups of no more than 10, with nurses on site to check for symptoms and monitor temperatures of all participants at drop off.
In addition to collaborating with local city and county officials to offer childcare services to first responders, including fire and police departments, the Y is partnering with hospitals and healthcare systems to provide emergency childcare. Among the many partnerships are:
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Georgia Highlands Medical Services
Grady Health System
WellStar Health System
The Y is proud to partner with countless organizations to ensure the health and well-being of our community members. We recognize that we cannot do this work alone, and our work as a convener and facilitator allows our collective work to impact more children, families, and seniors in this unprecedented time of need.