'Kids Eat Here' aimed at keeping children fed during summer

jmadden@herald-leader.comMay 21, 2014 

For three days, about 90 volunteers have stuffed thousands of backpacks and food boxes in hopes that they'll fill the stomachs of needy children in Lexington.

Hands, bodies and boxes were flying everywhere Wednesday at God's Pantry Food Bank as boxes of applesauce, canned goods, cereal and a list of places offering meals was piled on top of a table. From there, the boxes were stacked on pallets.

All of this was due in part to a partnership among Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, God's Pantry Food Bank, child services, Fayette County Public Schools, and Employment Solutions, Inc./Fresh Approach to stop summer hunger.

About 8,000 backpacks will be distributed by family resource officers throughout the school district, according to a city press release. In addition to cereal, milk, Chef Boyardee meals, juice and pudding, the kids will get information about where they can get free breakfast and lunch this summer.

The initiative titled "Kids Eat Here" will build on the federal Summer Food Service Program and be funded by the city with $55,000 for summer meals. Beth Mills, commissioner of Social Services, said the money was left over from the previous year's budget. Rather than having the money roll into next fiscal year, the city decided to invest the money in the program with the help of God's Pantry.

God's Pantry provides goods for 300 non-profits and 50 counties in Eastern and Central Kentucky. The food bank's CEO, Marian Guinn, said thousands having been fed in Fayette County.

Free meals will also be served in June and July regardless of family income, said Stephanie Hong, director of the division of youth services. Food boxes will also be given away to needy families by referrals by social workers.

"In addition to food, the kids will have daily contact with caring adults in the community at safe places," Hong said. "Those are two of the promises of America's Promise that will ensure positive youth development."

Meanwhile, children will be starting an initiative titled "Fueling the Mind" at the Lexington Public Library Village Branch, June 9-July 31.

The initiative expands the Summer Reading program through collaboration with the Kentucky Department of Education's Summer Food Service Program, public libraries and many community partners.

Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @heraldleader

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