August 8, 2001 | By: Haven Miller

Kentuckians are famous for their sense of community pride and willingness to help others. A perfect example is the summer feeding program in Jackson, where more than a hundred volunteers are helping provide more than 10,000 meals to children.

"This is our fourth year, and thanks to our local people and organizations we're feeding kids seven days a week," said Martha Yount, UK Cooperative Extension agent in Breathitt County and feeding program coordinator. "A lot of these kids who might otherwise go hungry depend on this program for their lunch until the school year starts up again."

The summer feeding program is authorized through the National School Lunch Act, and administered statewide through the Kentucky Department of Education's Division of School and Community Nutrition. Sponsoring organizations, typically local schools, are reimbursed for costs. Meals must meet federal nutrition guidelines, and may be served as a breakfast, lunch, supper, or snack.

"We're somewhat unique in our county because it's our local 4-H council that is the sponsoring organization providing the up-front money," said Yount. "We're also different from many other participating counties in that we offer a blanket feeding, which means that because more than 50 percent of our school children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches we can feed anyone 18 and under without requiring individual income data."

Children are fed at 15 different sites, such as schools, churches, the city park, or the public library. Meals are often associated with a program or event, such as a youth crisis program, a sporting event, or a library-sponsored nutrition lesson.

"We have kids here ages two through seven, and we try to make it educational for them," said Pam Kemper, library programs coordinator. "For example, in addition to feeding a lunch today of a sandwich, fruit, chips, and milk, we're also doing a program on proper dental care and we'll send home with them a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss."

Most of the work is done by volunteers who receive training. The volunteers help pack meals, deliver them, and make sure they are served safely.

""The Extension Service has organized this very well and made it easy for us," said Vaughn Rasor, local minister and feeding program volunteer. "It's an excellent program, and we've been able to reach out and meet not just the spiritual needs but also the physical needs of our families."

Last summer nearly 3 million children nationwide were fed daily through a combination of the Summer Food Service and the National School Lunch programs. In Kentucky more than 30,000 children were fed daily.

"Cooperative Extension is involved throughout Kentucky in promoting and doing outreach and awareness, and helping recruit sponsors in under-served areas," said Paul McElwain, Director of the state's Division of School and Community Nutrition. "Our Extension agents are well known in their communities and have great credibility, and that gives us a leg up on recruiting sponsors."


Martha Yount, 606-666-8812