YMCA Offers Programs to Improve Healthy Eating and Nutrition Practices

  • In the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Data from 2015-2016 show that nearly 1 in 5 school age children and young people (6 to 19 years) in the United States has obesity.
  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7 percent) are obese.
  • Six in 10 children didn't eat enough fruit and 9 in 10 didn’t enough vegetables in 2007-2010.
  • Hunger and food insecurity (i.e., reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns due to a lack of household income and other resources for food) might increase the risk for lower dietary quality and undernutrition. In turn, undernutrition can negatively affect overall health, cognitive development and school performance.

The YMCA of the North, a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, offers educational and experiential programs to improve healthy eating and nutritional practices for all ages.  

Studies show proper nutrition promotes the optimal growth and development of children. Healthy eating also helps prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and helps reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes as people age.

“The Y’s commitment to healthy living is reflected in our food philosophy for our employees, members, participants, volunteers and community,” said Glen Gunderson, president and CEO for the Y. “We believe that proper nourishment helps our body and mind develop to its full potential and allows us to perform and feel our best and help us thrive.”

Gunderson added that the YMCA offers an array of healthy eating and nutrition programs for all ages and backgrounds, including:

  • Healthy Living Kitchens – Nutritionists and health/wellness professionals share how food can be used to benefit a person’s body to boost energy, fight inflammation or reduce stress. Cooking classes give an opportunity for kids, adults and families to learn how food can be used to benefit their body.
  • Healthy Kids Programs – Youth learn about healthy eating, nutrition and physical activity while in Y care. During the 2016-2017 academic year, 86 percent of young people who experienced Healthy Kids initiative strategies improved or maintained high in at least one healthy eating practice (consumption of fruits/vegetables, more whole grains, etc.).
  • Family Cooking Classes - Cooking together encourages openness to new and exciting experiences with food. From learning the basics to exploring cultural cuisine and advanced baking skills, children will learn how to serve up their own healthy meals and snacks at home.
  • Camp Cooking Classes – Kids develop their camping skills by learning how to build a fire and cook over it. Campers receive lessons in outdoor cooking safety, cooking techniques, and the essentials for making healthy snacks and scrumptious meals in the great outdoors.
  • ForeverWell Programs – From cooking classes to grocery store tours, ForeverWell participants learn about best food options for mental clarity and physical strength.
  • Food Support Programs –The Y and community partners collaborate together to provide nutritious meals and snacks that contribute to the wellness, healthy growth and development of children in out-of-school-time programs.

Discover how Maxfield Elementary School Y Scholars learn about cultural food by cooking alongside their teacher – Healthy Eating Habits Start Early.

See how a nutritionist in the Healthy Living Kitchen teaches about starting your day with a whole foods, plant-based breakfast – Healthy Living Means Healthy Eating.

Learn how Y ForeverWell members participate in a cooking class to learn new skills and nutritional benefits from community partner Family Fresh – Cooking Healthy Food for a Better Us.

Nutritional recipes shared in the videos are available here:

Because the Y is a leading nonprofit committed to helping all people thrive, financial assistance is available to those in need. With the generous support of community members, the Y ensures that all have the opportunity to participate. To learn more about the Y’s programs, please visit