'Berea Kids Eat' program feeds thousands of families for free

Posted at 3:35 PM, Dec 11, 2020

BEREA, Ky. (LEX 18) — When the pandemic hit Kentucky in March and schools were suddenly closed, children that relied on the USDA's school lunch program were in turmoil after losing access to nutritious food.

The "Berea Kids Eat" program at Berea College responded and rallied together, serving up meals from local restaurants.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, there is a long line of cars, picking up breakfast and lunch for free.

"We have to have a protein, a vegetable, a fruit, a grain and a milk for every meal," Berea Kids Eat coordinator Martina Leforce said.

Berea Kids Eat stepped in using emergency funding from the USDA's summer food service program.

"Basically, what we're doing is we are offering what would have been the equivalent of school lunch, just during the pandemic. We serve about 4,000 meals a day," Leforce said.

And a big part of the food comes from local restaurants and farmers. So far, the program has injected over $700,000 back into the economy.

"It started off with me calling and being like, 'This might be out of left field, but would you be able to deliver us 2,000 subs a day to us sometime?' Every owner responded, and they were excited not just because it helps their business from having to close their doors but they're also able to help feed kids in the community," Leforce said.

Since the program started in March, organizers say this is the longest the line has ever been. They say they expect to serve 9,000 meals today to cover families through the weekend.

"I'm glad to know we can help so many people. It's also sad to know that many people need our help. But they're so grateful. It's nice to know we are here and able to help them," program volunteer Bailey Alexander said.