Local food pantries and cafeterias are taking hunger to task and preparing to serve up meals for students even when school's out. "You know, sometimes the pantry is bare in your house and you can't feed them," said Connie Emerson while picking up free groceries from Paducah Cooperative Ministry.
Some students in our area rely on their school for up to two meals a day leaving their parents only responsible for dinner. As we head toward summer vacation, providing breakfast and lunch will become an extra expense that many local families can't afford. Food pantries and schools are stocking up so that they can step in these next few months to make sure kids don't start missing meals. There may be more help out there than you think.
Handing out grocery bags full of food is a year-round job for PCM Executive Director Heidi Suhrheinrich, but she said the summer is always their busy season. "Some of the families are really stretching it anyway, and then when the kids are home and hungry all day, it's extra hard." Emerson said she knows what it's like to struggle to provide meals over the summer months. "That's an ongoing thing... Sometimes the pantry is bare in your house, and you can't feed them. I understand how that works."
The cafeteria food line is where many kids get two square meals a day while school is in. Now, when classes let out for the summer, some local school kitchens won't close. "We have a new program this summer to address some of those issues many families have with feeding their students," said Paducah School's Food Service Director Penny Holt.
The district is offering a "Feeding and Reading" program for the first time. Holt said, "It really keeps kids in the educational realm, as well as being fed and taken care of nutritionally." The goal is to fill student's stomachs and their minds until the start of the next school season. Emerson said, "You just don't realize how many of the school children are hungry."
"Feeding and Reading" is a partnership with The Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club and The 21st Century program at McNabb Elementary. A federal grant will reimburse the district for the food, and local businesses and the McCracken County Library have donated new books for the reading part of the program.
Graves County and Marshall County aren't participating in summer feeding programs this year. You can reach out to your food services director to find out if your child's school participates. Paducah's "Feeding and Reading" program will send buses with food and books to two Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club sites five days a week. There are no requirements to participate.
McCracken County Public Schools spokesperson Jayme Jones says that the district will be participating in the Summer Feed Program, which will offer kids a free, nutritious breakfast and lunch map for days that school won't be in issue. This program is set to be approved by at a board meeting on Thursday.
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Paducah, KY 42003