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YMCA Feeds Kids' Minds and Bodies in Before and After School Programs


The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities (YGTC), a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, feeds kids' minds and bodies to help them have the opportunity to be healthy - physically and mentally.

Studies show participation in before and after school as well as summer programs where kids and teens receive healthy meals and experience music and fine art programs helps boost school attendance, behavior and academic performance and reduces gaps in academic achievement among children from underserved communities.

"Healthy meals and enrichment activities are proven to help young people thrive, but those in underserved communities might not always have access or opportunities to participate," said Matt Kjorstad, executive director at the YGTC. "Together with schools, community partners and families, the Y is dedicated to closing the opportunity gap by feeding kids' bodies and minds to help them become tomorrow's community of healthy, responsible adults."

The before and after school and summer programs focus on providing youth in low-income communities with academic, social and lifework development to build confidence, academic skills and healthy habits.

Food is Fuel

Without access to foods that nourish the body and mind, studies show that kids and teens may struggle academically, socially or emotionally. With a grant from Cargill, the YMCA has partnered with Chef Marshall O'Brien to tackle this problem.

Every day at the Harold Mezile North Community YMCA, young people receive well-balanced meals that fuel them for success. The goal of the program is not only to address food insecurity for underserved youth, it is to educate them about how to make healthy choices. At the Y, kids get involved in the process by learning about planting and harvesting, understanding the benefits of making the right food choices and identifying their favorite fruits and vegetables each month. As a result, they are prepared to live happier, healthier lives.

Music for the Mind

Fine arts and music in particular are programs that many schools have had to scale back or even eliminate from their curriculum. The Y collaborates with organizations to provide opportunities where youth can experience and enjoy making and listening to music.

One successful program is Beats & Rhymes where kids get the chance to experience making and recording music that reflects their lives. Students have to complete their homework in order to participate in the after school program. The program is designed to provide challenging, positive youth and career development opportunities for low-income, culturally-diverse youth.

The youth participating in the Beats & Rhymes program have seen success academically by improving their writing and technical skills. They have also experienced success in the business world by creating popular videos like Hot Cheetos and Takis and learning how to promote music that reaches diverse audiences. They gained invaluable life lessons about leadership and cultural tolerance.

Discover how Michaela increased her confidence and now is helping others grow and learn - Michaela's Story.

See how Dennis got out of his comfort zone and has turned into a leader - Dennis' Story.

As a leading nonprofit committed to nurturing the potential of youth, financial assistance is available to those in need to ensure every child and teen has the opportunity to learn and grow at the Y. To learn more about the Y's educational and enrichment programs, visit

About the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities

The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities is a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Established in 1856 in St. Paul, 159 years ago, and a decade later in Minneapolis, the Ys provide life-strengthening services across 12 counties of the greater Twin Cities metro region and western Wisconsin communities. The 27 Y locations and program sites, seven overnight camps, 10 day camps, and more than 90 child care sites engage nearly a quarter million men, women and children of all ages, incomes and backgrounds. To learn more about the Y's mission and work, visit


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