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Bluffton Hospital Associates Supply Meals for Children at Camp

05.28.2024

Blanchard Valley Health System (BVHS) is pleased to support Bluffton youth with a partnership in which Bluffton Hospital dietary associates make and donate meals to children at the Bluffton Family YMCA Summer Day Camp three days each week.

“This provides phenomenal relief for families,” said Amy Byers, YMCA director. “We love that it levels the playing field. Some of our children are attending camp on scholarships, but they all receive these lunches, regardless of need. Nobody is singled out that way.”

She added that it also saves the parents time.

“It relieves burdens on families in all kinds of ways,” she said.

The 12-week day camp runs from early June through August, with an average of 35 children, ages 5-12, attending each week. Campers spend most of the day outside. Most campers are children who live in Bluffton, but some come from surrounding areas.

Each week has a theme, such as Pokemon Week, Construction Week, and Mad Science Week.

Bluffton Hospital associates have been preparing meals for children at the camp for four years.

Byers said the previous YMCA director reached out to the hospital after frequently seeing children bring lunches that weren’t substantial or filling. Some forgot to bring lunch at all.

The Bluffton Hospital dietary associates normally prepare meals for patients and their families, as well as associates at the hospital and the occasional community member.

“We’re a small kitchen with a very big heart,” said Lead Dietary Associate Eva Fensler, who oversees the program. “When the YMCA asked if we could do this, we said yes without hesitation. Kids need to be able to have a good, well-balanced meal.”

Fensler said they are mindful that children need healthy food. This includes milk or “real juice” rather than sugar-sweetened drinks, protein such as a ham and cheese sandwich, and healthy snacks like carrots or celery sticks. They avoid peanut butter in case a child has allergies, but can accommodate children with special needs, such as those who are lactose-intolerant. Children do get treats like baked chips, a fruit snack, or a cookie.

Some children, like children everywhere, are still eager to trade one lunch item for another.

“The adults at the camp witness a lot of ‘negotiations’ among the kids,” Byers said.

Many of the associates in the dietary department at Bluffton Hospital are from Bluffton.

“We are strongly committed to contributing to this community,” Fensler said. “And it feels good, in the summer, to be able to help give children something to do and a safe place to go. We’re excited to be a part of it. Every year, rather than it feeling like a chore on the to-do list, our attitude is, ‘Oh, we get to do this again?’”

The children, too, are excited about it.

“Every year the children send us homemade ‘thank you’ cards,” Fensler said. “It’s just the cutest thing.”

“We are very grateful for these lunches,” Byers said. “The kids love them, and it makes their parents’ lives so much easier.”



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