A young girl keeps her distance as she waits for her turn for a meal from one of Catholic Charities’ mobile units. When schools closed in March, so did many children’s access to food. To date, Catholic Charities has served nearly 60,000 meals. PHOTO BY JACOB BENTZINGER

by Jan Dixon

Special to The Leaven

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Summer has always been hard for hungry children.

Many kids in the archdiocese are dependent on free or low-cost school breakfasts, lunches and after-school meals for their basic food needs. But during the summer, when schools are closed, those meals disappear.

For these children, the answer is free summer lunch programs.

Traditionally, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas has run a kids summer food program yearly from June to August. The meals have been served at partner facilities and in a family- style setting with educational activities included.

Last year, they served 12,283 meals to children and youth under the age of 18.

When schools abruptly closed in March of this year as part of an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, and daily meals were stopped early, these children were at risk of going hungry.

“Feeding America tracks child food security in the United States and in Kansas,” explained Denise Ogilvie, chief mission officer for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. “And they are projecting an overall 47.6 percent increase in child food insecurity due to COVID-19.”

But Catholic Charities’ Kids Summer Food Program, directed by Josh Huston, quickly swung into action.

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