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Report: More Kentucky Children Get Free Summer Meals

Kentucky ranks 41st in the country for participation in federally funded children's summer nutrition programs. (Adobe Stock)
Kentucky ranks 41st in the country for participation in federally funded children's summer nutrition programs. (Adobe Stock)
July 10, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. - More children in Kentucky are getting their breakfast and lunch through federally funded summer nutrition programs, according to a report released today by the Food Research and Action Center.

The state has expanded the sites where children can get free summer meals beyond schools - to libraries, YMCAs, churches and parks - to nearly 2,000 locations. That's one reason the number of meals served last summer jumped by more than 15% from 2017.

Kate McDonald, Kids Eat coordinator with the group Feeding Kentucky, said summer is the most vulnerable time for kids when it comes to hunger.

"Kids that don't have access to summer meals perform poorly in both math and reading," she said. "They are going to be several grades behind their peers, and a lot of that can be attributed to what experts call the 'summer slide.' "

In a rural state, McDonald said, it can be challenging to ensure kids aren't going hungry, particularly for families without reliable transportation. So, the state has boosted its mobile meals program, where food is delivered to remote areas by van or school bus.

Last year, 26% of all summer meal program sites in Kentucky were mobile meal stops, according to the state Department of Education. Brendia Moses, public resource director for the KCEOC Community Action Partnership, runs a mobile meals program in Knox County and said feeding children in the summer is a community effort.

"We use a lot of volunteers, and we have a lot of church groups and youth groups that come in and volunteer," she said. "We're constantly looking just for community volunteers - people that just want to pop in and help - and it helps as well that a lot of our mobile sites have volunteers at the sites that help us."

Moses said many children in her area would otherwise have nothing to eat if it weren't for the mobile food-delivery program, which feeds kids breakfast and lunch almost every day. Parents can find meal sites closest to them by looking online at kykidseat.org.

The report is online at frac.org.

Disclosure: Feeding Kentucky contributes to our fund for reporting on Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY