More KY Kids Could Go Hungry This Summer When Federal Waivers Expire
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
Federal waivers put in place at the height of the pandemic allowed federal child nutrition programs more flexibility in delivering meals to households, because kids were not at school.
Those waivers are set to expire in a few months, and in Kentucky, groups working to fight hunger warn more children, especially in rural areas, will be at risk.
Tamara Sandberg, director of U.S. Food Security and Nutrition for Save the Children, said the waivers allowed parents to pick up multiple meals for their kids at a time, and in one convenient location.
"And the waivers allowed schools and other community partners to deliver meals right to their home, many, many more meals were distributed as a result," Sandberg recounted. "We're very concerned with the impact that is going to have on the rates of children receiving meals this summer."
One in six Kentucky children faces hunger, and more than 40% of households with children rely on SNAP benefits.
Sandberg noted leaders from across the country will gather at the Rural Child Hunger Summit April 28 to brainstorm ways to ensure rural kids don't go hungry as the nation shifts out of pandemic-era policies.
Chelsi Hinkle, assistant director of Kentucky programs for Save the Children, said despite the waning pandemic, rising inflation has kept demand for food assistance high across the state.
"We are seeing that is even carrying over as the pandemic is starting to end," Hinkle observed. "Families are having a hard time with getting access to fresh fruits and vegetables due to supply-chain issues and labor shortages. "
Hinkle pointed out the organization's focus this summer will be on flexible and even unconventional access to meals for kids, so families don't have to travel long distances to food pantries.
"We have created new partnerships with God's Food Pantry, Red Bird Mission and other mission services that provide food vouchers to families," Hinkle outlined. "We've also provided funding to school districts to increase backpack programs to make sure that we're getting foods into the hands of children that need it most."
She added throughout the pandemic, Save the Children has provided nearly 10 million meals to Kentucky kids and their families.
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