MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The YMCA of Greater Montgomery announced the launch of its brand new mobile food program on Tuesday. This program is the first of its kind for the organization, and YMCA of Greater Montgomery President/CEO Gary Cobbs said it's a dream come true.
"We know that here in Montgomery 50 percent of our kids are on free and reduced lunch," Cobbs explained. "On the weekend, after school and during the summertime, kids might be hungry. Where are they going to get their next meal from? We hope this can help with that."
The program is called "The Brown Bag Bus" and it will be driven throughout Montgomery's low-income communities where it will serve meals during after-school programs and on the weekends to families in need.
The Y estimates the program will provide 100 meals per day during the school year and 1,000 meals per week during the summer. This will in addition to the 500,000 meals The Y already distributes through its feeding sites. The program allows the organization to close the transportation gap for people who are unable to get to the sites.
"This is the next level," Cobbs said. "This is where we're going to meet people where they are. We're going to go to people because transportation is an issue many times with kids in our community. They can't get to us, so now we're going to them."
The bus features enough tables and chairs to accommodate 30 people at a time, as well as a pull-out tent and tables and chairs for outdoor dining. There are TVs on the walls so riders can watch educational programming about food choices.
Other features include games and a counter area where children can learn to actually prepare the healthy snacks they get to enjoy while riding.
Coca-Cola provided the YMCA with a $50,000 grant to fund the project. Coca-Cola's Matt Flurry said promoting healthy habits for local youth is important to the company.
"Earlier this year, we introduced the Balanced Calories Initiative, and that's an effort to fight obesity across America," Cobbs said. "We felt that The Brown Bag Bus would be the perfect way to partner with the YMCA."
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said the program is another win for the city in its fight against obesity.
"We got voted, along with Stockton, California, as the two most obese cities in the United States of America in 2010," Mayor Strange said. "We started immediately to work on that. Over the last few years, we have over 30,000 less obese people. This is partial to bringing it to the young people. If you get ingrained in what a healthy lifestyle is all about at a young age, you can have a greater impact."
Cobbs said The Y will begin to put together a route for The Brown Bag Bus. On Tuesday, the team was joined by Coca-Cola reps and Mayor Strange for an official ribbon-cutting for the project. Once the conference ended, the bus made its first stop at the YMCA located on Cleveland Avenue where nearly a dozen children were able to get on and enjoy a healthy snack.