One in five children in the U.S. live in poverty and grow up with limited opportunities to be healthy. The numbers here in Tampa Bay are just as worrying where 30 percent of children are growing up in poverty. That’s according to the City Health Dashboard, a new local data resource from the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine. It’s even more disheartening when you consider the national average of 23.6 percent.   For children in poverty, the chances for poor health are higher and the economic opportunities can be limited. These kids often lack access to healthy foods and quality schools, and face increased odds of toxic stress and challenging experiences such as teen pregnancy or becoming victims of violent crime.   The good news is the Tampa Y is doing something about this. One of the ways we reach children in poverty is through our partnership with Hillsborough County Public Schools. We provide free meals and healthy snacks during the summer and afterschool hours. This summer alone, we served more than 24,000 summer meals to all kids in the community to help those with food insecurity grow strong and smart.   To reach even more families in need, the Y’s Veggie Van delivers fresh produce to local food deserts such as Sulphur Springs and Wimauma. Last year, more than 5,900 kids from more than 1,100 different families paid just one dollar for a full bag of fresh produce.   When you add it all up, the Tampa Y invested more than $5.5 million in the community through financial assistance to ensure participation in all programs among youth, adults and families facing financial hardship; in addition to subsidized programs that fill community voids throughout Hillsborough and East Pasco counties.   Programs like these can build healthier communities in Tampa Bay that help all of our children grow up to be stronger, healthier adults who reach their full potential.
Pictured above: The Veggie Van – A Mobile Market Place is one of the ways the Tampa Y reaches families in neighborhoods with limited opportunities to be healthy.