On a trip to Pike County, Kentucky, Children Incorporated’s U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, visited the Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) at our affiliated project Belfry Middle School, where she met with our Volunteer Coordinator Brittany. Brittany is relatively new to her job, and is taking on a variety of roles and responsibilities as she helps the children at her school receive basic needs.
Shelley noticed that Brittany is full of energy and enthusiasm, and it was obvious that she loves what she does. She is able to do her job well because of the support she receives from our sponsors. Brittany told Shelley repeatedly that our organization is a blessing to the FRYSC at Belfry Middle School, and that she depends heavily on our sponsorship program to serve her students – especially those who are struggling to eat at home.
The challenges of facing hunger
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food”. In America today, people who live in rural areas often face hunger at higher rates than in other parts of the United States – oftentimes due to the challenges they face living in remote areas.
When families live far away from businesses or commercial districts, they might not have a way to access food pantries or other social services that could help them feed their families – if those services even exist in those districts. Furthermore, the majority of employment opportunities in rural parts of the United States tend to be for low-wage work; and unemployment and underemployment rates are often higher in rural areas than in non-rural ones. This is what we frequently hear in our work with families living in poverty in Eastern Kentucky.
Working together to feed kids
As they met, Brittany explained to Shelley how food insecurity is a big concern in her district. When Kentucky teachers went on strike earlier this year in an attempt to have improvements made to their working conditions, they held a rally to collect canned and dry goods, because teachers were worried about kids missing school meals and not eating during the day as a result of the strike.
When families live far away from businesses or commercial districts, they might not have a way to access food pantries or other social services that could help them feed their families.
Brittany said that her resource center is also fortunate because American Electric Power (AEP), her husband’s employer, and its employees are generous about holding food drives. The local branch of the company gives the food to Brittany’s husband, who takes it to Belfry Middle School for Brittany to distribute. She said that the AEP employees are a huge help in keeping kids nourished. She has enrolled thirty of her most vulnerable children in her weekly Backpack Feeding Program; and when she has a significant overstock of food, she shares with the other coordinators in her district.
Brittany’s work doesn’t stop when the children leave school for summer break, either. In fact, summertime concerns her even more with regard to whether or not children are receiving meals. During the summer, when schools are closed and kids don’t have access to the National School Breakfast and Lunch Program, Brittany works with local churches to host a weekly Vacation Bible School to give our sponsored and unsponsored kids morning snacks and lunches so that they can enjoy their summer instead of being hungry.
HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN KENTUCKY?
You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.