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Healthy summer meals reaching more Kentucky children

Kentucky Teacher

Hunger prevents some Kentucky kids from enjoying the carefree days of summer, but the state is making progress to make food available for youngsters in need.

According to the Food Research and Action Center's annual "Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation" report, Kentucky had the third-largest increase nationally in the number of children served by summer meal programs in July 2016.

Reid Livingston, coordinator of the No Kid Hungry Kentucky campaign, said that means 32,000 kids received much-needed nutrition.

"It's a big increase, something for us to really build on. It's a 13 percent increase over last summer," he said. "It takes our ranking from 49th to 47th in the country, but I think it's encouraging that we're increasing the number of kids that are receiving summer meals."

Summer nutrition programs are available to lower-income kids who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches during the school year. However, Livingston said that in Kentucky, just one out of 12 of these children access these summer meals.

More than 200,000 children in the state are considered "food insecure," and Livingston said outreach efforts should be increased to ensure families are aware of the summer meal programs. He said the rural nature of Kentucky can pose a challenge.

"It's hard to get the food to the kids; it's hard to get the kids to come to the food," he said, "so we've really worked hard on what we call mobile units or mobile routes, where we take the food to the kids in trailer parks and in parts of the community that are hard to access."

Summer meal sites include schools, churches and community centers. Livingston said many offer enrichment activities to help keep kids learning and better prepared to return to school in the fall.

Food site information is available by texting "Food" to 877-877 or online at: http://kykidseat.org

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