1 in 5 Kentucky children struggle with hunger, national program ships meals to children

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 7:06 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2020 at 7:54 AM EDT
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KENTUCKY (WBKO) - Child hunger continues, if not getting worse throughout the pandemic. One in five children in Kentucky struggle with hunger.

The Meals to You program is a partnership between USDA, the Baylor University Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, and PepsiCo. What began as a summer pilot project in 2019 has emerged into meals for children to address pandemic-related nutrition needs in rural areas.

“The issues of hunger and lack of nutrition are more urgent now than ever,” said Doug Hargis, Senior Manager of PepisCo’s Food for You program.

As a response to the pandemic, ‘Meals to You’ is packing up and shipping out.

“On any typical day at school, there would be roughly 22 million children that would be eligible to receive a free and or reduced lunch and breakfast,” explained Hargis.

Following COVID -19, Meals to You was created through a partnership between Food for Good, USDA, and the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty.

“What Meals to You specifically does is solves how to get nutritious meals to children in rural areas- very specifically rural areas,” said Hargis.

That geographical focus is for a reason.

“As a child who is displaced by COVID, there is food, and then there is a problem of the logistics of getting to that food that’s where the meals to your program come into play.”

To those rural areas, they’re shipping five million meals a week to children’s homes. 246,000 meals have been delivered to Kentucky alone, across 41 communities.

“We take ten breakfasts and ten lunches and pack those up in a box, now these are shelf-stable meals,” said Hargis. “They don’t require any refrigeration or anything of that nature, but they also follow the same nutritional guidelines of the USDA program.”

It’s an unprecedented time for not only adults but especially children. Meals to You helping bridge the gap where food might be lacking, or hard to reach.

“These children would get this food every day but they’re not in school, they still need the food. Yes there’s online learning and such but they still need the food as well that’s a very integral part of learning,” said Hargis.

Initially, Meals to You aimed to serve one million meals to children in rural areas. Due to unprecedented need, high requests to participate, and the commitment of USDA and its partners, the initiative rapidly expanded. As of July 11, 28,565,460 meals have been delivered to 268,277 children across the U.S.

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