Need for summer meals growing in Jefferson County - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Need for summer meals growing in Jefferson County

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Every day in cafeterias across the state, you'll find kids eating lunch at local schools.

For some, it's the chance to get a meal that they otherwise may not get at home.

Every school year, in Jefferson County, thousands of kids take part or are eligible for the free or reduced lunch program.

"In Jefferson County, we know that number is a little over 74,000 children,” said Cathy Gallagher with the Kentucky Department of Education.

Gallagher is the Section Supervisor of the Summer Food Service Program.

She says when school is out, a little more than 7 percent of the kids taking part in the free or reduced lunch program during the school year in Jefferson County, are taking part in the summer programs too.

Despite the low percentage, Gallagher says the overall number of kids needing help is still high.

“There's actually more children being fed in Jefferson County per area than the rest of the state,” said Gallagher. “When we look at July of last year, Jefferson County fed 20 percent of the total meals for the entire state,” she said.

Under the state's Summer Food Service Program, there are four local sponsors in Jefferson County helping to feed kids locally.

They include JCPS, The Lord's Kitchen, Dare to Care, and Louisville's Community Action Partnership.

"They've collaborated to try to identify areas of the city that have not been served and they work every year to increase the number of sites and make food more readily available," said Gallagher.

JCPS plans to offer 74 locations for free food this summer, along with its Bus Stop Cafe.

“Really, anywhere that there's kids, we try to provide meals,” said Terina Edington, Assistant Director for Nutrition Services at JCPS.

The Bus Stop Cafe was created two years ago. It travels to kids, who jump on board to get a free meal and participate in activities.

"A lot of times in communities they don't have a common area where they can come into a sheltered environment and eat a lunch meal," said Edington.

The two JCPS buses that were transformed into a Bus Stop Cafe will reach more kids this summer. Last year, they made a total of 11 stops a day. This year, the buses will make 14 stops a day.

At each one, they feed nearly 110 kids, up to 18 years old.

Officials say many kids are dependent on the free meal that JCPS helps to provide during the summer.

“On average, we feed about 2,700 lunch meals a day to children in Jefferson County,” Edington said.

They say the need is growing.

“Families live on a very tight budget and often times the one place when other types of bills go up, that's the first place they have to cut is their food budget,” Edington said.

That's why local sponsors are working together to make sure they're covering all areas of Jefferson County this summer.

The four sponsors service 150 sites and locations for children to eat. Officials would like to see the number grow.

Those taking part, like Terina Edington, say it's a program that gives kids more places to turn when they're out for summer.

“We're starting to get more parents calling and saying ‘Thank you. Thank you for coming out and we really appreciate it and this has really meant a lot to our family,'" said Edington.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Summer Food Service Program.

If parents would like more information on where locations are available in the summer, they can call 866-348-6479 after June 1st, 2015.

Parents can also text the word ‘Food' to 877-877 after June 1st. It will help direct you to a site.

For more on the Summer Food Service Program, click here.

For more on the Jefferson County sponsors, click the links below:

JCPS

The Lord's Kitchen

Dare to Care

Community Action Partnership

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