Sheila Geraghty, Northeast Youth Center
March 15, 2023
One amazing part of Northeast Youth Center's food program to highlight is that a child is NEVER turned down for more. For a lot of children, NEYC is the one place where they can rely on food security. We believe that if the child is asking for more, they should have access to it, with no conditions. A phrase that goes around the center is, "have all the condiments you want; 2nds, 3rds, go for it!”
Something unique about our chef is that George grew up in extreme poverty and food insecurity, so he not only has the desire to provide healthy meals but he has experience and knowledge of the downfalls that come with food insecurity as a young child. This may be what attributes to the meals going from something to fill their bellies, to a 100% SCRATCH kitchen, OVERNIGHT. That is the moment our YEAR-ROUND CACFP CELEBRATION started.
Places like Northeast Youth Center rely on the CACFP food to provide healthy, well-balanced meals. The biggest issue correlated with quality food is the hefty cost increase. We need to raise awareness of CACFP to continue the movement of every child having access to healthy eating habits. We promote long-lasting eating habits through providing healthy foods in a hidden and fun way that is nutritious and tastes great. We make the conscious effort to incorporate healthier substitutions whenever possible. This helps children to try new foods and find out that they like them. One example is, substituting white flour bases for whole wheat. This could be anything from whole wheat tortillas, and house-made wheat bread, to breading for baked chicken tenders. We also serve a variety of ethnic foods. Chinese Chicken Salads, Gyros, Taco Salad, to name a few. We have gotten a lot of recipes from the CACFP website!
One example of NEYC promoting healthy eating habits: We had a five-year-old child try lettuce for the first time in their life, and as soon as we could turn back the whole piece was gone, and they were asking for more. We get to watch the kids enjoy healthy and nutritious foods for the first time and love it! Food insecurity is one of the biggest issues we see children facing at the center. This is due to our low-income, at-risk demographic. Food insecurity leads to behavioral issues that we see daily. Testimonial: One of the most impactful positive effects that our food program created~ A brother and sister, 3 and 4 years old who enrolled in the center not ever knowing when their next meal was going to be. They had been severely neglected, abandoned for weeks, and left to pick out of garbage cans. When they started at the center, they would steal food off of the other kids’ trays, run and hide to eat it because they didn’t understand that the food in front of them was theirs and that they didn’t have to steal food in order to eat.