ERLANGER, Ky. (WKRC) - If you feed them, they will eat.
That's the belief at Erlanger-Elsmere Local Schools where kids don't just get breakfast and lunch. They also get dinner.
“Our kids have that need,” said Amanda Ponchot, the food services director for Erlanger-Elsmere Local Schools.
School districts across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana are into their summer feeding program, which helps serve healthy meals to low-income areas. Since 67% of the school district is on free-and-reduced price lunch, under Kentucky Department of Education guidelines, the entire school district is eligible for free lunch.
Before the pandemic, the district fed up to 700 kids supper daily. In the first month of the pandemic, they served supper to half that many.
“We’d hop in four vehicles and go door to door and knock and deliver all the meals to the students,” Ponchot said.
Now that school is out for the summer, they're still firing up the ovens. Preparations are non-stop. Five to six nutrition workers compile breakfast, lunch and dinner, including fresh fruits and vegetables.
“That means a lot to us because I make my children eat a vegetable at every meal regardless,” said Megan Sullivan, a parent with four kids in the school district.
Meals are packed and distributed every Monday and Wednesday at Lloyd High and Howell Elementary schools.
“Usually we don’t have financial disparities, but during this whole illness, my husband was furloughed for a while,” Sullivan said. “We feed a family of seven. I have four children and an elderly grandmother that I take care of whom I live with, so this program has really helped provide meals, healthy meals, each meal for our children through this entire process.”
The district also creates frozen meals.
“Maybe they’re home with their older sibling while mom or dad works,” Ponchot said, “That’s something they can just easily put in the microwave or the oven and it’s sustainable for themselves.”
Slicing, roasting and baking all in hopes of providing a meal to those who need one.
“I have staff that wasn’t worried about any virus that was out there,” Ponchot said. “For them, the pandemic was feeding the kids.”
Summer feeding programs allow the school districts to feed any kid ages 1 to 18, regardless of if they are a student of the district.
Erlanger-Elsmere provides meals every Monday at Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Lloyd High and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Howell Elementary.