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Fewer KY Kids Going Hungry During the Summer

Summer Nutrition Programs offer free summer meals to all Kentucky children, ages 18 and younger. (Riley Kaminer/Flickr)
Summer Nutrition Programs offer free summer meals to all Kentucky children, ages 18 and younger. (Riley Kaminer/Flickr)
June 13, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Hunger-fighting groups and agencies in Kentucky are making progress as they work to ensure that children in the state have access to healthy, nutritious food during the summer months.

A report released today from the Food Research and Action Center showed a 14 percent increase in lunches served in Summer Nutrition Programs in Kentucky in 2017 compared with 2016.

Kate McDonald, program coordinator for the Kentucky Association of Food Banks' KY Kids Eat campaign, said that while Kentucky still ranks 46th among states and the District of Columbia for summer nutrition-program participation, things are looking up.

"Even though we're still in the top 10 lowest-performing states," she said, "the growth that the Department of Education and the summer sponsors have seen has been in the double digits the past three summers, so things are moving in the right direction."

She noted that the Commonwealth's growth is not duplicated nationally, with 14,000 fewer children across the country served summer lunch in July 2017 than in July 2016. Free summer meals are available to all children ages 18 and younger in Kentucky, and McDonald said innovative ideas are helping to ensure that more kids can be served.

"The sites are schools and community action centers, but also they are buses in a neighborhood, or even a lot of housing complexes have little picnics outside every day," she said. "So people are really making it work and feed as many kids as possible. It's very admirable."

McDonald said summer meals help fill the gap for those children who rely on free school breakfast and lunch, while also offering educational and social activities.

"There is research that shows that when kids don't have consistent access to food during the summertime, they're paying for it in the classroom," she said, "and the state of Kentucky is going to pay for it down the road if we're not taking care of the future leaders of Kentucky."

The report showed that still, just one in 12 Kentucky kids who eats free lunch during the school year has access to a free summer meal.

The report is online at frac.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY