Fight Against Child Hunger in Appalachia

Hunger walks among us, and hurts far too many children, their families, and seniors in Appalachia. One in four children in Appalachia face food insecurity. Rockcastle County Schools (RCS) partners with Christian Appalachian Project’s (CAP) Grateful Bread Food Pantry in Mount Vernon to fight hunger and feed hope among children through a backpack program that ensures students have food to eat over the weekend at home.

The pantry packs just over 100 weekend food care packages each week during the school year to be distributed to students. Kim Hunter, a Youth Service Center program liaison at Rockcastle Middle School, has seen the face of hunger in her students and helps coordinate them with food programs like the weekend backpacks.

“CAP is wonderful to us by helping us with the backpack program,” Hunter said. “They provide 30 bags to students in need at the middle school. It helps us know at least for that weekend that our students have the food they need. We couldn’t do it without CAP.”

The school system has been a strong supporter of CAP’s Hunger Walk, which raises awareness for food insecurity each September, which is Hunger Awareness Month. RCS staff and students participate in the annual walk and host food drives for Grateful Bread so it can continue to give pantry boxes, commodity boxes, and bags to the schools to feed people in need in Appalachia.

Rockcastle County High School Honor Club students are hands on at the pantry and help pack food boxes to distribute to the community. Along with RCS, Lexington Christian Academy (LCA) has also partnered with CAP this year. LCA has helped pack backpacks for the program and will be a host campus for this year’s 10th annual Hunger Walk Sept. 16 in Lexington. That day RCS students will participate in the Mount Vernon walk.

“We will always support the Hunger Walk,” Hunter said.  “I walk because I love my community, I love my kids, and I love my school system. I love what CAP does for our community.”

In Rockcastle County, there are several single parents raising children and a rising number of grandparents and even great-grandparents raising their grandchildren, Hunter said. In those situations, it can be hard for families to make ends meet and fully support their children’s needs, such as food.

“If the kids come to school hungry, they can’t be in a classroom setting and perform. If you are hungry that is all you are focused on,” Hunter said. “One of our major barriers is keeping their bellies full so they can stay in the classroom and focus without worrying about where they are going to get their next meal.”

Hunter reflected on one family that faced such challenges. The family was living in a garage with a roll up door and a dirt floor. They had few belongings, which included a mattress, a mini fridge, and a heater, and they relied on prepackaged food for their meals. When RCS found out about the situation, staff were able to connect the family to housing programs and to food programs like CAP’s backpack program.

“That still weighs on my mind that they lived like that,” Hunter said. “But there are a lot of families like that who just don’t have the support and they don’t know where to go or who to turn to.”

Help us restore hope at home for people in need in Appalachia by joining the 10th annual Hunger Walk. An online portal is open to create fundraisers and virtual teams for the event at christianapp.org/HungerWalk21. Or share photos on social media, use #HungerWalk21, and tag us @chrisappproj.

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