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United Boys & Girls Clubs serves record number of free meals during summer program

United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County free meals to youth summer camp 2021
United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County
United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County free meals to youth summer camp 2021 2
United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County (UBGC) announced they served a record number of free meals to their members during this year's summer program to help kids suffering from impacts of the pandemic.

Since March 2020, impacts from COVID-19 have caused a spike in unemployment, homelessness and food insecurity throughout Santa Barbara County.

To help, UBGC decided to expand their food program significantly this summer, offering two free meals and a snack each day to more than 250 youth members. The Clubs hoped this service would ensure that all children at the Boys
& Girls Clubs would have the brain food they need to play, learn and grow.

Many UBGC members come from working families who often struggle to put food on the table, but the Clubs said cost is never a barrier and services are available to all children regardless of family income or background. Free meals are provided to all members at no additional charge, and enrollment fees are waived for those unable to pay.

UBGC said, of the 800 kids enrolled in the ten-week summer program, more than half also received full or partial scholarships.

With help from community donors, the United Boys & Girls Clubs aim to alleviate the financial burden of packing daily lunches and promote healthy living by providing balanced meals to all Club members. The food program would not be what it is today without the generous support of The Coeta & Donald Barker Foundation, which helped launch this program with a $30,000 donation.

“The best part about cooking for the kids is seeing their expressions when you serve the food. Some of them even get so excited they try to peer through the window while I’m cooking,” said Louise Cruz, a UBGC board member who worked with staff to help launch the Zero Hunger Program in June. Cruz said it was hard to please so many picky eaters, but between the pozole, Caesar salad and fettucine alfredo, she had something for everyone.

Free meals aren't all the kids got to experience during the summer program—members also had the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of athletics, creative projects and educational mentoring. A select number of students were even able to attend a four day, three night summer camp at UBGC’s Camp Whittier at no cost where club members were encouraged to participate in activities like ziplining, hiking and one-on-one counseling for those in need. Now, UBGC is gearing up for a new school year of free meals and academic success.

The Zero Hunger Food Program and all activities at the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara are only possible with generous community support. To learn more about UBGC programs and how you can help youth in the community this upcoming school year, visit www.unitedbg.org.

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Jessica Brest

Jessica Brest is a digital journalist and assignment editor for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Jessica, click here.

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