A new report from Feeding America shows that 4,280 children in Daviess County are at risk of going hungry.
The report, called Map the Meal Gap 2019, details state and county data on food insecurity, which means that a person may not have consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
The report shows that 18 percent of children in Kentucky (187,000) are food insecure – a slight decrease from 19 percent in last year’s report. The national average is 18 percent, just slightly higher than the 17.7 percent rate in Daviess County.
“The number of families who qualify for free and reduced lunch at Owensboro High School is 67 percent,” said Michelle Mayfield, Youth Services Coordinator for Owensboro High School. “That means 67 percent of our students/families are at or below the poverty level.”
Most schools, like OHS, offer assistance, she said. And Owensboro Public Schools offer free breakfast and lunch to all students.
Sometimes students don’t ask for help, but Mayfield and the other FRYSCs rely on the teachers to be their eyes in the classroom.
“Our teachers are very good about recognizing signs of when students are in trouble or in need,” she said. “If students don’t ask for assistance directly, our staff may become aware of students who are asking others for food or putting food in their pockets to save for later. Most OPS and DCPS schools have backpack programs for students who need food over the weekend.”
Businesses and churches sponsor the various schools to send these students home with food on a weekly basis.
At Owensboro High School, the backpack program is run on donations from Independence Bank, and they keep a listing of all pantries and community meals available. People who wish to help can donate to those sites.
During the summer, the summer feeding program fills the place of free school lunches. Both Owensboro Public Schools and Daviess County Public Schools participate in the federal program.
“There’s a real need for the program in our community,” said Food Service Director for OPS Kaitlyn Blankendaal. “Some students don’t know where their next meal will come from.”
Blakendall said the sites are all over town, from city and county schools to parks and Girls Inc. and the Edge Ice Center.
“We make sure we can offer those meals so they don’t have to worry about it,” she said. “They know they can go to the summer feeding site.”
Free breakfast, lunch and snacks are available to anyone ages 18 and under.
“You don’t have to be a student here,” Blakendall said. “If you’re visiting from California and you need a meal while you’re here, you can get one.”
She said currently there aren’t any dinner sites but if someone wants to offer one, they should reach out to Central Office to get started.
“It’s a great program,” said Blakendall.