District donates hot meals to keep students fed


Reporter - Elizabeth Fields
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

BALLARD COUNTY, Ky. - Bitter cold temperatures and ice may have kept school buses off the roads all week in Ballard County, but they couldn't stop a handful of church vans from shuttling to the high school Friday night.  

For the first time ever, the district hosted a hot meal for students, parents, and anyone who might need one. Student Nutrition Director, Amber Hayes told local 6 because of how rural the district is, she knows that number is high.
"People are having to make the decision am I going to heat my house? Am I going to buy food?" she said. Unfortunately when faced with a tough decision, some kids end up with empty stomachs. "We know when kids leave our door on Friday afternoons; some of them won't eat again until Monday morning."
That is why after the district decided to call for the 5th snow day this week, administrators also started thinking about how to help get a nutritious meal to the families that need it most. 

Hayes was asked about hosting a community meal Thursday morning and by the same afternoon had figured out that they needed approval from USDA. 

"We had the food on hand, but it's your tax dollars and it's my tax dollars at work, so with anything it has to be approved through the powers at be," she said. The food is paid for by federal money for the kids who receive free and reduced meals. In Ballard County, about 650 kids qualify for the program.

"We are not in a state of emergency, normally this is the only way that they would do that is in a state of emergency," she said. But they were granted permission within a couple of hours. It only took a couple of minutes to alert parents through the same system they use to announce snow days.

Misty Williams was just one parent who was not expecting to hear about the free meal when she picked up the phone.

"Very surprised," she said. "Because they've never done anything like that or anything. It's something really nice for the community and everything."

She said she was also relived because five snow days in a row is tough on parents.

"It's already bought, we've been out for a week," she said. "If they don't use it, it's going to go bad do they need to use it and why not use it for the community than have to throw it out."

Hayes said because it was the first time, there was a learning curve, but called the night a success after serving 313 meals. She said they ended up taking many meals to families who weren't able to make it to the school. 

She said, "Three days without a hot meal is a long time and we wanted to fill people up as long as we could before the weekend."