FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — Thousands of children across Kentucky rely on their schools to serve a warm meal for breakfast and lunch, and even a snack during the day, but what happens when the final bell rings to end the school year?

Last summer, the Kentucky Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program served more than 8.7 million meals in Kentucky.  While the director of the program said that number was boosted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the need to provide nourishing food for growing children is always there, especially in the summer.

“We know if children are well-nourished during the summer, they’re growing, it supports their health, and they’ll come back to school in the fall better prepared to learn,” said Cathy Gallagher, program manager for the Kentucky Department of Education’s Summer Food Service Program.

Although single-degree temperatures emphasize we’re still months away from summer, the state education department is already asking for schools and non-profit organizations to sponsor the Summer Food Service Program.  According to a news release, meal sites are often located in public areas including schools, community centers, parks, family housing complexes, and locations operated by faith-based organizations.

The news release states sponsoring organizations must be one of the following:

  • A public or nonprofit private school food authority (including school districts)
  • A public or nonprofit private residential summer camp
  • A unit of a local, municipal county or state government
  • Other private non-profit organizations

Groups interested in learning more about helping the program can attend a free online training by first registering here.  Gallagher said about 200 organizations partnered with the program last year.  She said there are “a few” counties in south-central and western Kentucky that have fewer sites.