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Looming hunger cliff for Kentucky families

Feeding Kentucky is a non-profit overseeing seven member food banks that serve all 120 Kentucky...
Feeding Kentucky is a non-profit overseeing seven member food banks that serve all 120 Kentucky counties in partnership with a network of over 800 local food pantries and shelters.(Live 5)
Published: May. 6, 2022 at 6:20 PM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - The child food insecurity rate is more than 20 percent in more than half of all Kentucky counties and is highest in Magoffin county.

WYMT spoke with Kate McDonald, the Director of Feeding Kentucky’s No Kid Hungry campaign, who said the summer meal programs families are familiar with may look different this year.

A major area of concern is federally funded child nutrition waivers that are set to expire shortly after the school year ends in many places.

”These waivers are set to expire June 30, but schools and community groups are still struggling with pandemic related challenges like supply issues, rising food and fuel costs and staffing shortages,” McDonald said.

McDonald said the end of these waivers is particularly concerning when coupled with the end of the federal Child Tax Credit, which ended in January. Additionally, the end of pandemic-related SNAP benefit increases mean some families may face a hunger cliff when the school year ends.

”The sponsors that are serving the meals and the families that are receiving them have to change up the entire way that they will be operating which is going to eliminate some options in Kentucky,” she said.

The changes will vary from food site to food site, but some locations have been offering several days worth of meals at a time in to-go packaging. Now, people may need to go and eat at food sites as needed.

Additionally, there were about 2400 food sites across the Commonwealth last summer, and McDonald said as many as 180 of those will not be open this summer.

McDonald recommends, ”If you are concerned about summer meals in your community, reaching out to your school district and inquiring where those meals be. They’re a fantastic resource.”

She said that community groups will have short-term solutions to keep children fed, this summer, and that resources for families in need do exist, but she believes the problem will require government action long-term.

”We all long for a return to normal, but it’s not here yet and families need continued help to feed their kids this summer and beyond,” she said.

Starting June 1, Kentuckians may also find food sites by texting the word, “food” or “comida” to 304304.

The food sites near you come from the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which provides breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners each summer.

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