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Feeding program helps local children

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Grant money helps feed those under age 18 free of charge

By Calen McKinney

 

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He wanted carrots but got celery instead. Luckily, someone sitting nearby likes celery and is willing to switch.

The goal is to make sure children get to eat lunch during the summer. They also hope the children will stick around to read and not lose reading skills learned during the last school year.

Taylor County Public Library is hosting its first summer feeding program this year to go along with its annual summer reading program.

And, so far, youth services librarian Emily Snyder says she is happy with the response but would love more children to come and eat.

The library's summer feeding program is an extension of the program administered at Taylor County schools.

Taylor County and Campbellsville school systems have a summer feeding program each school year to offer free meals to anyone 18 and younger. The cost of the meals is reimbursed by state and federal grant money.

Meals are provided free to anyone 18 and younger, Snyder said, and there are no eligibility requirements.

Those who are 19 and older can pay $3 for a meal. The meals follow school lunch nutrition guidelines.

Last week, one of the lunches was a hot dog, chips, applesauce, vegetables and dip and milk.

Snyder said the library applied for a federal grant through Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives and was awarded $4,975. All libraries could apply for the grant, Snyder said.

"With the grant, there's really no reason not to do it."

The money will be used to hire part-time summer employees to serve the lunches and pitch in with the summer reading program.

Snyder said library staff members have tried to tie the summer feeding program into the summer reading program theme of "Dig In To Reading."

She said staff from the Taylor County Extension Office will come to the library and teach nutrition classes.

The library's summer feeding program got under way on May 28.

Meals will be served today through Wednesday, June 17-19, June 24-26 and July 1-3, July 8-10, July 15-17 and July 22-24. Meals are served at about 11:45 a.m. to around 12:30 p.m.

Each day food is served, Snyder said, part-time Kyle Brewer and Samantha Buckman go to Taylor County schools to get the food and then serve it in the library's community room.

So far, she said, she has seen some babysitters bring groups in and some children have come to eat after Vacation Bible School.

"We're really excited about it," Snyder said. "And we hope to grow throughout the summer."

Brochures about the summer feeding program were passed out during the kickoff to the library's summer reading program on Saturday. Snyder said she hopes getting the word out will encourage more parents to bring their children.

Snyder said she wanted to do the summer feeding program at the library to help combat summer reading loss.

"We can bring kids into the library all we want, but if they're hungry, their needs aren't being met."

She said the library also provides a family-friendly environment and lets children do something they might not believe they are allowed to do at a library.

"To eat where they're not supposed to," Snyder said.

Campbellsville's summer feeding program has already ended for the summer, Director of Pupil Personnel and Food Services Jeff Richardson said.

He said school officials decided to have the program for two weeks in May and close the cafeteria in June because of the school's reconfiguration plan.

Richardson said the district will host its summer feeding program on its regular schedule next year.

Throughout the two weeks in May, Richardson said, about 40 to 50 children came to Campbellsville schools to eat free lunch.

To make sure local children have lunch to eat in the summer, Taylor County school staff members pitched in to make sure its program was continued in June and July.

"It's a good program," Richardson said. "Taylor picked up where we left off."

Kathy Phelps, food service director at Taylor County schools, said the district's summer feeding program began the last week of May and will continue through July.

Meals will be available at Taylor County High School from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today through Thursday and then June 17-20, June 24-27, July 1-3, July 15-18 and July 22-25.

Phelps said the school has administered a summer feeding program for the past several years. The response so far this year, she said, hasn't been overwhelming.

She said she hopes the library will have success with its program and attendance will increase at TCHS and the library.

"We'd love to have some kids walk in off the street and eat with us."

So far, Phelps said, Taylor County has fed about 70 children a day as part of the district's summer enrichment program, which has now ended.

And though the district receives reimbursement for each meal its serves, and for each meal the library will serve, she said the program isn't done to make money.

"It's really just designed to feed kids over the summer when they might not have access to a meal," she said. "The purpose for us is just to feed hungry kids."