School offers free meal after week-long snow days
Barlow - After cancelling school for the fifth day in a row, administrators began to become concerned about what the kids in the district were eating since a large amount of them depended on the school for breakfast and lunch.
Julie Thomas, Public Relations Director for Ballard County Schools, said the idea of offering a free meal to students, families, and others in the community who needed it sprang from a conversation about higher food bills since kids had been out of school all week. A major concern was for families who had to ask themselves, “Do we pay for heat or feed our kids?”
Student Nutrition Director Amber Hayes was approached by school administration inquiring about providing a community meal. Hayes contacted Bill Wickliffe, Director Kentucky Department of Agriculture Division of Food Distribution, to get approval to use the food since it is paid for by federal money via the Child Commodity Nutrition Program for the kids in the district who receive free and reduced meals. According to Hayes, about 650 kids qualify for the program.
“We are allotted so much money every year for commodities based off of the meals served in the prior year,” explained Hayes. “These are our tax dollars at work. Last year our district was allotted $53,826.09 to spend. We always set back the max amount of 18% for fresh fruits and vegetables totaling $10,070.82 to be used throughout the school year (this is also called DOD because it is allocated through the Department of Defense,” continued Hayes.
“Normally, the only way we would do something like this is in a state of an emergency,” said Hayes. “But within a few hours, we got approval.”
Hayes pointed out that the people in Paducah have more avenues during times in need. “They have the Boys and Girls Club, Martha’s Viniard, and the soup kitchen,” she said. “Our main purpose is to take care of the kids and people of Ballard County. She said the school was offering the community meal for people who may only have the bare minimum when it comes to food. The school wanted those people to come out and have something that was hot and filling.
“That’s what’s so great about living and working in Ballard. It’s more than just a school; it’s a family,” said Hayes
Family Focus Director Kelly Wray came to the meal with boxes of food to give to kids to take home for the weekend. Wray typically sends food home with some kids on Fridays in their backpacks, so they will have something to eat over the weekend.
Initially, a handful of churches came with their vans to offer rides to those in the community who needed a ride to the school. After about a half an hour into the meal, volunteers started to load up their vehicles to deliver meals to senior citizens and others who may not have been able to make it to the school. With all the icy road conditions, people either didn’t want to venture out of their homes, or the conditions were too dangerous even if they wanted to get out.
In total, 313 meals had been dispersed, according to Hayes. Seventy-one people were served on-site, while the rest of the meals were delivered. With the help of staff members and 24 volunteers from the community, Ballard County Schools was able to meet the needs of its kids and their parents even when school was not in session.