Report: nearly 1 in 4 Fulton County kids face food insecurity
A nonprofit recently released data showing the increased amount of food insecurity among Kentuckians with a far western Kentucky county having some of the highest food insecurity.
According to Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland (FAKH), nearly 24% of children in Fulton County faced food insecurity in 2021, the latest year on file. That is the highest food insecurity rate among children in FAKH’s 42-county service area, which spans central, south central and western Kentucky.
Food insecurity can hinder the ability of young students to perform well academically. Fulton County School District has employed the use of backpacks – packing them with food and sending them with students when they go home after school.
Brandon Uzzle is the coordinator of Fulton County’s Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC). He said there are clear indicators when a student is hungry.
“You look at a child and they may rush to the food line in the cafeteria, or they may come in on a Monday morning not feeling the greatest and they talk about how hungry they are,” Uzzle said. “We also see students save food and hoard food. It's definitely a need across the world but especially in school districts.”
More than 139,000 Kentuckians in FAKH’s region face food insecurity. The nonprofit defines food insecurity as a lack of accessibility to food at any given time. Food insecurity can cause negative health consequences such as asthma and anemia and behavioral problems including anxiety and hyperactivity in children.
The Purchase Area Development District (PADD) — headquartered in Mayfield — is a major supplier for food banks in the Purchase Area, making sure food from Feeding America and USDA is sent to local communities.
Executive Assistant Geri Lamb manages the food bank programs in PADD and coordinates with local food banks to make sure communities receive food. One of the programs they take part in is the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We personally deal with 37 food pantries,” Lamb said. “Fulton County is our most impoverished county, and in that case, you are probably going to see a higher percentage of children in that number.”
The Ken-Tenn Foodbank in Fulton has worked to feed community members through food drives and food delivery services.
Ken-Tenn Foodbank co-founder Sandra Joyner said FAKH findings are evident in the county. She and others wanted to take action when they founded the food bank.
“There were people hungry…I can’t handle that,” Joyner said. “There was a group of us at First United Methodist Church that saw the need of hungry people, and we formed the Ken-Tenn Foodbank.”
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program has two main categories for supplying food to residents: the Senior Commodity Program and the Low-income Commodity Program. Local churches also partner with the Ken-Tenn food bank to draw in donations.
Joyner said they rely heavily on donors throughout the region. She said getting food to communities such as Hickman – located on the western end of the county – are difficult to reach due to the lack of transporters.
“For the community box we only have 25 to 30 families a month that come,” Joyner said. “We would like to have twice that amount.”
The Ken-Tenn foodbank collaborates with the ARK Food Pantry in Hickman. Around 50 boxes of food per month are delivered to senior citizens throughout Hickman.
Fulton County Schools take part in Feeding America’s Backpacker Program, where backpacks are filled with non-perishable food items and given to students before weekends and holidays.
Uzzle said even though the program has fed many students, they still have to receive approval from parents to send food to homes. He said it creates a dilemma where some parents refuse to sign permission slips.
People can help feed a student by donating to adopt a backpack. People can donate to Fulton County Schools or any school districts taking part in the program.