In June 12-18 issue
By Derek Aaron
Times Journal ReporterABOVE: A group of kids enjoyed breakfast last week at the Russell Springs Elementary School cafeteria.
RUSSELL SPRINGS - Through federal funds and the USDA, Russell County children ages 19 and under can eat breakfast or lunch free with the "Summer Grub Feeding Program" at Russell Springs Elementary.
Persons do not have to be residents of Russell County and do not have to show proof of income, simply bring your children and eat two free meals and with the cost of living seemingly increasing everyday -this year's program has an added appeal-its free.
Cynthia Record, the cafeteria manager and Bonnie Kerns, manager for Jamestown Elementary have one goal in mind and that is to feed as many children hot healthy meals this summer.
The program, which runs through July 26, isn't only for school-aged children. They help furnish food for various programs and events such as church events and Bible Schools, basketball camps, Adanta programs, the Hispanic Garden Project, among others, according to Judy Bernard, program assistant.
Kerns said the program furnished and handed out more than 900 meals at the Catch a Rainbow Kid's Fishing Derby this past weekend and will be at the Russell County Fair on Kid’s Day.
Breakfast is served beginning at 7 a.m. and runs through 8 a.m. while lunch is served at 11 a.m. and ends at noon, according to Russell County Food Service Director Susan Melton.
"It's really for any kid 19 and under, and they get a full meal," Bernard said.
The program, which has been going for more than 16 years, sees its highest number of children during the lunch hour but feeding program staff say both times are busy.
On a typical day the program feeds approximately 100 children at the school alone. With the off-site feedings, that number grows exponentially, according to Bernard. Last year, including on and off-site meals, the program averaged anywhere between 300 and 400 meals per day.
Bernard said that one church alone has requested 400 meals for a Bible school next week.
"It'd be safe to say that we do 800 to 1,000 meals a day when we have got a full week of Bible schools," Bernard said.
So far, Bernard said this year has gotten off to a slower start than normal and she said she believes it may be due to high gas prices and a slow economy but she was optimistic about the rest of the summer.
"Churches that participate are tickled to death with what we can provide," she said. "We also love for the parents to bring their child to get a meal."
Bernard said that many children in the county may not get enough food to eat during the summer and that school meals are the best they may receive for much of the year.
"When a child out here tells us that they're hungry, you want to feed that child," she said. "We love doing it."
Bernard said she believed there are starving children in the county. "We want to be there for them," she said.
She said the feeding program serves food that is appealing to children but is also healthy and filling.
The menu closely resembles a regular school breakfast and lunch menu but also aims for more healthy options, such as more fruits and vegetables.
Bernard said one believed misconception was that the meals weren't free and that you had to pay to eat. That's not true, she said. Anychild under the age of 19 can walk in and eat.
Bernard said that if any churches are planning Bible schools or any other events and want to have their food furnished or if anyone has any other questions concerning the free "Summer Grub Feeding Program" to call Susan Melton's office at 270-866-2273 or Russell Springs Elementary, where the food is prepared and served, at 270-866-3587.
Summer feeding programs are funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered through the Kentucky Department of Education.
According to the USDA, Americans spend around 13 percent of their disposable income on food inside and outside the home. Bernard said she hopes more parents will see this program as a way to manage that budget and get their children the food they need, cost free.