LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Department of Education hosted the Summer Meals Summit in Louisville on Tuesday for school districts and non-profit leaders to learn more about funding available for their Summer Food Service Programs.

Ryan Quarles, Kentucky Department of Agriculture Commissioner, said one in five Kentucky school children are food insecure, meaning they do not have adequate access to consistent, healthy meals. Quarles said the work by the sponsors at the summit is very important and necessary to help feed children throughout the summer months.

“Study after study after study have shown that kids who do not have access to not only meals but healthy nutrition are disadvantaged,” Quarles said.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture reimburses $3.83 per meal served over the summer. With a new grant, the department will also reimburse one-third of what sponsors spend on locally-grown produce.

“We hope that Kentucky sets a standard, a national model, of how if we’re going to serve food to those less fortunate in the summer," Quarles said.

According to Kentucky Department of Education data, 62 percent of Jefferson County Public School students are eligible for free or reduced meals.

“So often, families are just challenged in the summer with their food budget,” said Cathy Gallagher, the section supervisor for the Summer Food Service Program with the Kentucky Department of Education.

JCPS runs a Summer Feeding program once school lets out in May. Last summer, the district served well over 300,000 meals to kids under the age of 18 at more than 100 locations across the county.

“We’re really, really grateful this year to have some great grant funding that helps to offset those costs that they really can’t cover with the reimbursement,” Gallagher said.

The Dare to Care Food Bank is a sponsor of the Summer Food Service Program in Jefferson County. Annette Ball is the program director and hopes to spread the word to more families that free food services are available to them.

“If a kid doesn’t know that there is a meal available, they’re not going to turn out to eat,” Ball said.

Dare to Care serves a hot meal every day at locations across the county. But over the summer, the food bank serves three meals a day. Ball said they have been serving about 2,000 total meals per day during the summer, but they came to the summit to learn how they can partner with more groups in order to serve more children.

“We know it is vitally important in this community to get meals to kids, especially during the summer months when so many kids don’t have access to breakfast and lunch with the school time meals,” Ball said.

There will be another summit in March to provide training on how to implement and run some of the programs mentioned on Tuesday.

Once summer starts, to find a meal location near you, call 1-888-348-6479 or text “FOOD” to 877-877.

If you are interested in helping with the Summer Food Service Program, click here. If you are interested in volunteering or donating specifically to Dare to Care Food Bank, click here.

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