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School Meal Pick-Up Sites a Challenge for KY Families Without Transportation

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Around 60% of Kentucky schools provide students with free breakfast and lunch. (Adobe Stock)
Around 60% of Kentucky schools provide students with free breakfast and lunch. (Adobe Stock)
August 10, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- School districts across the state are navigating how to ensure kids are being fed as school reopening is delayed or learning is shifted entirely online for fall.

According to federal data, around 600,000 Kentucky kids are eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch. That's about 80% of children in participating schools.

But Kristin Hughes, community education and outreach director at the nonprofit FoodChain, said while there may be enough food, that doesn't always mean families can access meals. She said many meal pick-up locations for kids in Lexington-Fayette County schools are too far away for parents without reliable transportation. And she added many kids are picking up their meals by themselves.

"And so, when you put a pick-up site that far away for a child that is relying on it, it makes it impossible for them to access," Hughes said. "I think transportation is also something that you need to think of when thinking of some of these families who really need the resource that the schools are offering with these food pick-ups."

Hughes said her organization is helping to bridge the gap this summer by providing free fresh meals for kids that are reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But she noted they will not be able to continue that work at start of the school year.

She said she worries about kids and families missing meals as unemployment income runs out and increased SNAP benefits disappear.

LaTiphia Brewer's son attends public school in Lexington. She said at the start of the pandemic, the school district initially dropped off meals at bus stops, but then stopped a few weeks later when a staff member contracted the virus.

"The school for my son's district is like 10 or 15 minutes away," Brewer said. "I personally know that made it difficult for parents who do not have transportation."

Brewer said despite the challenges, she feels the school system and other agencies have tried their best to offer meals to families while reducing person-to-person contact.

"I mean, if people are getting COVID-19, would you even want them to still come and deliver your meals? I personally wouldn't," she said.

Out of the more than 40,000 children in the Lexington-Fayette County School system, around 50% are eligible for free and reduced-cost lunch. According to the district's website, between March 16 and May 27, Lexington-Fayette County schools provided more than 365,000 meals to children and youths.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY