The Teen Nutrition Program provides free meals from Home Plate
Taunton — Teens can enjoy free nutritious meals and snacks after school at the Taunton YMCA thanks to the Teen Nutrition Program, said Old Colony YMCA Teen Nutrition Program Coordinator Louann Davis.
“There is space for children to do their homework, socialize and play video games,” she said. “It’s a safe space for them.”
Davis said meals and snacks are served from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the dining room.
“We serve five hot meals a week, Monday through Friday,” she said. “They can have snacks and drinks.”
Davis said there are approximately 45 teens participating each day in the Teen Feeding Program, which began in November for teens ages 13 to 17. The majority are from Taunton, she said, but there are also some from Rainham.
Davis said that YMCA officials began the Teen Feeding Program in November 2022 in response to the recognition that teens need to eat nutritious meals and snacks.
“We didn’t realize how serious it was until we started distributing food,” she added.
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Offers meals and snacks in the Teen Nutrition Program
For the past two months, Davis said, Teen Nutrition has been purchasing meals from Home Plate, a sports-themed restaurant on Bay Street.
She said: “I asked the children where they wanted me to order food from them, and they said ‘Home plate’.”
Natalie Anderson, co-owner of Home Plate, said asking the teens for more food from her restaurant “was a nice compliment to the kitchen staff.”
“We tried to offer a variety of foods and tried to make it fun and healthy for the kids,” she said. “We’ve done everything from Caesar salads, grilled chicken, chicken parm over penne, macaroni, and pulled pork sandwiches with applesauce. We’ve made vegetarian and fried meals. We’ve made chicken broccoli.”
Home Plate chef Shannon Woodward said the teens also received Italian stuffed shellfish, chicken Alfredo, pizza, American chop suey and ground beef.
“It’s amazing that we can give children access to foods with different flavors,” he said.
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Woodward said the chefs are “in the process” of creating nutritious meals for the children. He said they provide meals in individual boxes to help teens “get a meal and do an activity at the Y.”
“They are boxed in for the kids to take in at their leisure,” he said.
Robert Anderson, co-owner of Home Plate, said asking teens that his restaurant serve meals at a YMCA is similar to what many parents experience.
“Kids often ask where they want to go out to eat,” he said. “We always try our best to bring families to our restaurant.”
Anderson said Home Plate plans to offer free meals to children accompanied by their parents on Tuesday, February 7, 14, 21 and 28.
“Parents will have to pay for anything they order, but their children will get a free meal,” he said. “We do it because of the economic madness. Every family needs a break once in a while.”
Old Colony YMCA’s favorite foods
Lisandro Lopez, 13, a Taunton resident who loves to play basketball and swim, said he enjoys Home Plate’s Chicken Alfredo and Chicken Dishes.
“I come here almost every day,” he said.
Thirteen-year-old Taunton resident Felix Castrillo, who also loves swimming and basketball, said he enjoys chicken nuggets and pizza.
“I’m thankful that I can get it for free,” he said. “I usually come here every day.”
16-year-old Taunton resident Riley Sheehan said he loves to play basketball regularly at the YMCA.
“I’m grateful they started the food plan, and I love the people responsible for it,” he said.
New youth basketball program
Davis said kids in the nutrition program for teens could join a new basketball program that is scheduled to begin on February 11.
“It will be a team program that will take place on Thursday nights through May,” she said. “Kids won’t have to pay to play. There will be referees, and the games will be just like regular games.”
Teens ages 13 to 17 can register to play by completing YMCA registration forms or emailing him at [email protected], Old Colony YMCA program coordinator Dylan Kehoe said.
“It will provide children with a safe environment to play with their friends,” he said.
The Southcoast Community Foundation is giving $60,000 to the Teen Nutrition Program
The Old Colony YMCA executive director Roman Davis said the nutrition program for teens is funded by a $60,000 grant from the Southcoast Community Foundation, a New Bedford-based nonprofit.
“This program will continue until the end of September 2023,” he said. “We will endeavor to apply to the Southcoast Community Foundation again next year to continue the program and seek other grant opportunities if they arise.”
Davis said the nutrition program for teens is “one of the best” that has been set up at the Old Colony YMCA branch in Taunton.
“The teens in our city deserve better,” he added.
Parents may enroll their children in the Teen Nutrition program by calling Louann Davis at 508-823-3320 or emailing [email protected]