Shelby Park Summer Kick Off 2015Many children in Kentucky have been counting down the days to the end of the school year and the start of a carefree summer: playing outside in the warm sun, splashing in pools and lakes, chasing lightning bugs, and gathering with families and friends for backyard barbecues. But for the families of one in four children, summer just means more mouths to feed and agonizing over choices between paying for food or utilities.

Hunger is a serious problem in Kentucky with devastating implications, particularly during the summertime. KY Kids Eat connects children to their next meal throughout the summer months because all children deserve nutritious food, year-round. At participating sites throughout the state, free meals and snacks are available to all children 18 and younger—no questions asked. These summer meal programs help ease the financial burden on families and provide children with at least one healthy meal each day.

We Can’t Ignore Summer Hunger

Providing children with access to nutritious food beyond the school year can have a lasting impact on a child’s health and academic achievement.

  • Students who don’t get enough nutrition over the summer months are more likely to fall behind their peers once the school year starts.
  • Students from low-income families experience a greater “summer slide” than their peers, returning to school two months behind in reading.
  • Low-income families have to spend an additional $300 on groceries each month during the summer, forcing many parents to make tough choices between food and medical care, utilities, and transportation.
  • Many families struggling with hunger turn to cheap, calorie-dense foods with little nutritional value. As a result children from low-income families often gain weight two to three times faster during the summer than during the school year.
  • Food insecurity makes children more susceptible to chronic diseases like asthma, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Bring the Farm to Summer

Letcher County Summer Meals Program

Promoting summer meals at farmers’ markets is an innovative way to provide fresh, local food to children and their families. Because seasonal produce is freshest in the summertime, utilizing the harvest from a market is a great way to source tasty, healthy ingredients for summer meals. Markets are unique, family-friendly gathering places, where people can connect to their local community, listen to music, sample new foods, and shop for produce.

Kentucky is proud to offer two KY Kids Eat program sites located at farmers’ markets, with several others interested. At the Letcher County Farmers Market and Berea Farm Stand, children can sit together and enjoy their summer meal prepared with food straight from local farmers. Nearly 40 markets now accept SNAP/EBT and many participate in the Double Dollars program, making local food an affordable option for lower income families. Parents are encouraged to shop for fruits and vegetables while children eat, and together they can experience the fun activities and entertainment of the market.

Locate a KY Kids Eat summer meal site today by calling the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-877-8-HAMBRE), texting FOOD to 877-877, or visiting www.KyKidsEat.org. Summer meal programs welcome volunteers for tasks like food transportation, meal site set up and clean up, education, and recreation. Residents interested in volunteering should visit www.KyKidsEat.org for more information.


References

KY Kids Eat

Kentucky Association of Food Banks – Hunger in Kentucky 2014 Report

No Kid Hungry—Summer Nutrition Program Social Impact Analysis

No Summer Vacation for Hunger