YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN)- This week, WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford sits down with Jim Bird (CEO/executive director) and Edna Edmonds (director of operations) with the Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown.

One key topic is how food and nutrition is a barrier to learning when it’s not sufficient. It’s a problem the Boys and Girls Club works to address.

“We receive our kids directly after school, and the amount of kids that we have who are extremely hungry. You have to realize if the kids get to school at 7:30 or 8, by the time they get to us, they have lunch around 10 or 11. So they’re really, really hungry, and it becomes a barrier when it’s time to learn,” Bird said.

Edmonds says the words “I’m hungry” are some of the first she hears when the kids come in.

“I’ve made them a sandwich or made them something or gotten them a snack,” Edmonds said. “We try to provide them with a snack and a meal to make sure that they’re OK before they go home.”

Daily attendance is at 60. The club is open Monday through Friday. Snack time is at 3:30 p.m. and dinner is at 5 p.m.

Many times, multiple siblings are served, which helps stretch the food availability at home.

A lack of food nutrition is also a barrier to education. Edmonds explained how the community can begin to address the issue.

“I think education is number one. If people don’t know, they can’t do anything about it. I also feel like a lot of people think that the problem is taken care of with food stamps and they’re not understanding that just because a family may receive food stamps, if they’re at school all day, then they’re going to an after-school program all day. By the time they get home, it’s really late. So I think there’s still a problem and there needs to be some education on the issue,” Edmonds said.

“Yeah, the other thing is, I think sometimes people will think it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s number one. I don’t think that it’s number one on their list of things to think about. The other is, there is this stigma people don’t want to talk about or ask for help of what they need. But I think, you know, I keep going back to the pandemic. One of the things the pandemic taught us as a Boys and Girls Club and as a society is number one, collaboration gets you further, and number two, to help each other gets us further,” Bird said.

“I think we’re able to meet the kids where they are. We know they’re coming directly after us to school. If we can provide that snack immediately once they get there and then provide a dinner before they leave, that definitely is helping,” Edmonds said.

The Oak Hill Clubhouse is going to be renovated and that means that the Boys and Girls Club will have more space for programming.

“We really want our kids from the South Sid to come over to the east side with some transportation that we are going to provide but also to let families and the kids on the wast side know that there’s a program coming there this summer, and it’s going to be for them and it can enrich their lives,” Edmonds said.

That program begins June 20. It’s the first day of summer camp at the McGuffey.

There are three pillars of youth development in Boys and Girls Club: Academic success, character and healthy lifestyles.

“Our summer camp focuses on all of those aspects, We offer things such as STEM programs, triple play, summer brain game, and we know that a lot of times young people lose what they gained during the fall and summer,” Edmonds said.

The challenge is to let the kids know that it’s fun.