LaRue County Schools will provide free meals to children this summer as part of a federal program.

This is the first summer in more than 10 years that the school system will participate in the program, said Stephanie Ut­ley, food service director for the district. The U.S. Depart­ment of Agriculture will reimburse the district for each meal served.

The program is open to any child younger than 18. Meals are served at LaRue County High School and from a bus that will stop at six sites around the county. The program runs from June 4 through July 27.

The district recently received a $3,000 grant from KY Kids Eat Coalition to help kickstart its summer feeding program. Utley said the grant went toward purchasing equipment to get the program going, transport containers and promotional materials.

The coalition partnered with Anthem Medicaid for the grant program. The Kentucky Association of Food Banks is the coalition’s lead agency.

“Summer is the most vulnerable time for hungry Ken­tucky kids,” the coalition said in a news release. “Over 220,000 children in Kentucky are at risk of hunger and, during the summertime, schools and nonprofits work to ensure that every child has access to nutritious meals.”

This year, the coalition identified mobile meals and enrichment programs as key factors in the success of summer meal programs. Hardin County Schools also recently announced it will serve meals along with bus stops in Eliza­bethtown and Radcliff.

The coalition said in the release that mobile meals have been successful in Kentucky, especially in rural areas.

Utley said banners will hang on the bus so children in the community know they are coming. The district is kicking off its summer feeding program at 5 p.m. Friday at Creekfront Park. The first 100 children will receive prizes. A petting zoo and bounce house also will be at the event.

Starting at 10:30 a.m. daily, the bus will stop at Creekfront Park, LaRue County Public Library, Cox Lane, Landmark Drive, Miami Court and Buf­falo Baptist Church. Meals also will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the high school.

“This grant has been tremendous in getting the mobile route up and running,” Utley said in an email.

She said she’s not sure how many participants the program will have in its first year, but the community is supportive and she hopes numbers are high.

For more information, call LaRue County Schools Food Service at 270-358-7116 or email Utley at stephanie.utley@larue.kyschools.us.

To locate a summer meal site in your neighborhood or community, text FOOD to 877-877.

Katherine Knott can be reached at 270-505-1747 or kknott@thenewsenterprise.com.

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