LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A large majority of Laurel County students recieve free or reduced lunch, around 6,300 students or 66 percent to be exact.
According to Judy Nicholson of the United Way, a vast majority of those students depend on school meals to eat. When school’s not in session they just go without.
In an attempt to combat the child hunger epidemic plaguing the Appalachian region several charitable organizations such as the United Way of Laurel County have surfaced.
“There are a lot of kids that go hungry in our county,” Nicholson said. “A large part of our kids rely on free or reduced meals during the school year, they shouldn’t have to go without food just because school is out. They shouldn’t have to lose those meals, that’s why we started this program.”
Since noticing the hunger problems that Laurel County students face during the summers nearly five years ago, the United Way of Laurel County has been working to provide students with a supplimental food source during the summer.
The United Way has partnered with local churches, Souls Harbor Church and First Baptist Church East Bernstadt, to distribute meals to kids throughout June and July. They distribute more than 340 meals per day.
Nicholson and her team of volunteers visit lower income neighborhoods on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in a attention grabbing replica of the “Mystery Machine” from the Scooby Doo cartoon series.
“The van was donated by Ky Auto Exchange,” Nicholson said. “We thought the ‘Mystery Machine’ paint job would help attract attention and get the kids to come out to see it.”
When kids do come out to see the van they are greeted with a warm smile and a bag lunch that includes a sandwhich, milk, chips, a pastry or snack, juice and occasionally a snack.
According to Nicholson it costs about $50 total to provide summer lunches for a child in Laurel County for two months. A large part of the food is provided through private donations.
“We just really appreciate everyone who has made donations to help feed the kids,” Nicholson said.
To get involved with the United Way or to make a donation to their summer feeding program contact Judy Nicholson at the United Way of Laurel County, 606-330-0702.