Islands YMCA – How to Donate for a Healthy Community

Thursday, October 5th, 2023

September 26, 2023, The YMCA of Coastal Georgia, in partnership with Healthy Savannah, is piloting a new program to encourage food pantry donations that help put food equity advocacy into action.

The program called SWAP (Supporting Wellness at Pantries) is being introduced at the Islands YMCA to advocate stocking the pantry with healthy items, provide clients with health resources, and implement healthy nudges.

“This is important because more than half of the families who visit food banks have a household member with high-blood pressure, and more with type II diabetes,” said Laura Schmarkey, association outreach director, YMCA of Coastal Georgia. “Chronic illnesses can also be prevented, managed, and reversed through the foods that we eat.”

Using a “Stoplight Nutrition Ranking System,” the program is designed to help clients make healthy food choices and prevent or manage chronic disease. It also creates an easy way to categorize the food that is offered at food pantries to help clients identify healthier choices and influence the types of food donated to the pantry.

“We are committed to breaking barriers to healthy eating with our partners at the YMCA and everyone who seeks to ensure food equity in Savannah,” said Paula Kreissler, Healthy Savannah executive director. “We know that food insecurity leads to poor health, and poor health increases the risk of food insecurity. By providing access to healthy food sources, food pantries can help clients maintain healthy habits, eat nutritious meals and manage chronic illnesses.”

Healthy Savannah and the YMCA of Coastal Georgia also recently were awarded a second five-year Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant from the CDC, with $5.1 million in funding to being deployed over a five-year period across the Savannah area’s low-wealth neighborhoods in areas of nutrition, physical activity and the reduction of chronic diseases.

The Islands YMCA Food Pantry is located at 66 Johnny Mercer Blvd, Savannah, GA, 31410, and is open every third Thursday from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. For more information and to donate, call (912) 897-1194 or visit the Facebook page at [email protected].

A video from the developers of the SWAP program is available at:

For more information about the Islands YMCA SWAP pilot program, contact Laura Schmarkey at [email protected]. or 912-433-0055.