Kentucky food aid coming to kids who missed school meals amid COVID-19

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — About 500,000 low-income Kentucky children will be eligible for additional federal food aid to help make up for meals they missed at schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The aid will come as an increased payment to families through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

"No child should go hungry, and this program will help ensure Kentucky children have access to the nutrition they need," Eric Friedlander, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said Thursday in announcing the increase.

The prospect of children missing meals after schools closed prompted many schools and others to organize distribution of free meals to families in need.

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For example, Boys and Girls Club of Kentuckiana has been providing free meals for families to pick up from their three centers in the Newburg, Shawnee and Parkland, working with groups including Jefferson County Public Schools and Dare to Care.

The centers, which provided meals to children as part of their services, have closed during the pandemic and the organization wants to make sure the children and their families aren't going without food.

"That's their No. 1 need right now," said Jennifer Helgeson, president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs.

The increase in SNAP benefits will provide temporary help to families with children to purchase more food, state officials said.

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The extra benefit amounts to up to $313.50 per child who is eligible for free or reduced lunches at public or private schools. It is meant to cover the cost of meals the students would have received in March, April and May after schools were closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The extra funds were made available through the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown said about 75% of Kentucky's students receive free or reduced-price meals at school.

Families who already receive benefits such as SNAP, Medicaid or Kinship Care should automatically receive the extra benefit on debit cards provided by the state. The benefit will be added by May 28, state officials said.

Families of all other children must complete an online application at the state website benefind.ky.gov.

The deadline to apply in June 30.

More information is available on the state's website, chfs.ky.gov, or through the state benefit call center, 1-855-306-8959.

Reach Deborah Yetter at [email protected] or 502-582-4228. Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/subscribe. 

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