Saturday, February 2, 2019

1 in 5 Ky. kids don't have enough to eat at home, so some schools offer supper; state agriculture program spurs summer meals

Two students get lunch at a school in Fairview in Boyd County.
The school superintendent is drawing attention to child hunger.
"With one in five Kentucky children not having enough to eat at home, many school staffs in the state are taking steps to feed them beyond breakfast and lunch and beyond days when schools are open," reports Valarie Honeycutt Spears of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

About 38,000 children in Kentucky are served daily in after-school supper programs, but “We have a lot of room to grow,” Elizabeth Fiehler, child and adult-care food program manager for the state Department of Education, told Spears, who adds to the number by reporting recent examples of school food directors feeding kids on the fly.

"When many public school systems in the state were closed for snow days Jan. 30 and 31, Letcher County Schools Food Service Director Nancy Banks opened West Whitesburg Elementary to provide food. She decided to serve students free lunches on both days and free breakfast on Thursday in Whitesburg . . . students’ families could eat for $3.50. About 55 meals were served thanks to staff willing to work on snow days."

Fairview Independent Schools Supt. Jackie Risden-Smith reported on Twitter that an after-school dinner program is “a game changer for reducing childhood hunger in our community.”

“While getting his food, a student smiled at his teacher and said, ‘We haven’t had a lot of food to eat at home ... now I won’t be hungry tonight’,” she wrote. “Child hunger is a real problem and we need more awareness. People don’t like to talk about it.”

In other tweets reported by Spears, Risden-Smith said, “Food insecurity among our youth is a basic need we must meet and although many are uncomfortable talking about this topic, we can’t afford to not talk about it and continue to bring about awareness. . . Hunger is a distraction to learning.”

State Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has started "a first-of-its-kind initiative aimed at combating food insecurity with summer meals for Kentucky children," Spears writes. "He said the Kentucky-grown Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Program, called K-VIP, creates an economic incentive for summer meal programs to buy fruit and vegetables produced in Kentucky by Kentucky growers."

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