TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

March 31, 2014

Officials visit Summer Food Service site

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer

“In the summer, around lunchtime, when I’m walking around and showing the apartments, the kids are sitting around and waiting to eat,” said Michelle Foley, the Manager of Murrel Mitchell Apartments off Old Barbourville Road in Corbin.

That’s because the apartment complex serves as a site for children to receive nutritious meals, when they’re off from school during summer break.

They’ll do it again this summer, because the apartment complex participates in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program.

And, because the program has seen great success at the complex in years past.

The USDA’s impressed with Foley’s efforts, and Friday two of their top officials came down to see what’s cooking’.

Tony Hernandez, the USDA Rural Housing Service’s Administrator, joined Kentucky’s USDA Rural Development State Director, Tom Fern, to hear from both Foley and Brenda Moses, the Public Resource Coordinator of KCEOC Community Action Partnership.

KCEOC, based in Gray, serves as the sponsor of the Summer Food Service Program in Knox County.

Hernandez said USDA’s launching an effort in Kentucky called the StrikeForce Initiative. The initiative will reach out to USDA-financed housing complexes in the state, to encourage other complexes to open their facilities to serve as sites for the Summer Food Service Program.

“Our programs are more than just facilities and food. It’s bringing people hope for tomorrow. It’s a team effort to change people’s lives. The federal government, the private sector and a non-profit come together,” he stated inside the exercise room of one of the units of the complex.

According to Fern, Murrell Mitchell Apartments is a “blended property,” and is a USDA Rural Development 515 Facility.

The 78-unit complex gets funding from USDA Rural Development, as well as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and from tax credits.

The property is owned by KCEOC.

During the officials’ visit to Foley’s office, Moses pointed out the Summer Food Service Program is carried out to the hilt by KCEOC.

“We follow the USDA guidelines. The kids will have a fresh fruit or vegetable, a sandwich, fruit juice and a cookie. We have set schedules, and before the schools let out for the summer, they’ll get copies of our schedule,” she said.

Kentucky fed over 367,000 children with free-and-reduced lunches in the 2013 School Year. But statewide, only 20,189 kids war served during the summer months. That’s according to Deanna Tackett, the Kentucky Department of Education’s Director of the Division of School and Community Nutrition.

The state division administers all the child nutrition programs, including USDA’s summer feeding program.

Tackett — who joined Moses, Foley, and the USDA officials during the visit — stated that gap during the summer months is a gap that needs to be filled.

“Some of the challenges are getting the kids to the sites. Trying to get those kids to the site is a challenge. That makes this setup at Murrell Mitchell great. Most of the kids live here. They (KCEOC) brings the food here, and the kids eat here. If you feed them, they will come,” she added.

Moses noted, “We try to centrally locate the sites for the kids. And we use our drivers for three mobile routes. We also have stationary routes, which are schools and in places such as the Stivers (Aquatic) Center in Barbourville. We’ll take food there and drop it off to them.”

“I think it’s a marvelous program. We know there’s many children not getting food nutrition programs during the summer, and this program and our partners are doing a wonderful job,” Fern said.

More information on the StrikeForce Initiative is available at USDA’s StrikeForce website, at www.usda.gov/strikeforce. Or, you can call KCEOC at (606) 546-3152.

“It’s a great program. It gives the children the opportunity to have nutritious foods in the summer. It’s a necessity to them,” said Foley.

Moses agreed. “If this program wasn’t available in the rural areas like ours, I don’t know what we’d do.”

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