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With summer in full swing, many students are enjoying their time away from the classroom. There’s no homework. There are no tests.

However, with no school, there’s no school meals either. And according to the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, only one in 12 students who eat free or reduced-price meals are connected to free summer meals in the state.

Kate McDonald, KY Kids Eat Campaign Coordinator at the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, said summer meals help fill the gap by providing meals to children at sites where they can eat, learn and play.

“When school lets out, too many children lose access to the school breakfasts and lunches they rely on during the school year, increasing childhood hunger and stretching family budgets during the summer,” she said.

But, thanks to the Madison County Schools’ Summer Food Service Program and Berea Kids Eat by Grow Appalachia and Berea College, local children will have nearly 80 summer meal sites providing breakfast, lunch and dinner until school returns for most on Aug. 21.

Last year, the two programs served a combined 64,168 meals — Madison County Schools served about 46,888 meals, while Berea Kids Eat served 17,280. The organizers say this year, they want to make an even larger impact.

“It’s not about the numbers. It’s about reaching every child that needs a meal,” said Scott Anderson, Madison County Food Service director.

The programs have partnered with the community as schools, churches, local camps, the Madison County Public Library branches and other hubs will serve as summer feeding sites.

Martina Leforce, Berea Kids Eat coordinator, said the best way to support the programs is to use them.

Parents shouldn’t hesitate to bring their children. There is no limit to the number of meals either program can serve. In addition to providing a healthy meal for children, the programs also take the economic risk away from parents trying to get their children to eat healthy foods.

Madison County is fortunate to have two programs working to keep children’s bellies full all summer.

With so many locations spread across the county, there is no reason for parents to not take advantage of this wonderful — and free — opportunity.

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