MOUNT VERNON, Ky. — Rockcastle County Schools showed up in a big way to support the 6th Annual Hunger Walk, sponsored by Christian Appalachian Project’s Grateful Bread Food Pantry. More than 725 students participated in this year’s walk, which seeks to bring awareness to hunger-related issues in Appalachia.
“We are blown away every year by the support we receive from the community,” said Carolyn Lindsey, manager of Grateful Bread. “Mt. Vernon and the surrounding communities partner with us year after year. That community support has helped this event to grow and to remind us all that lack of food is an issue here too.”
In fact, hunger and food insecurity issues exist in every community in the United States. In Kentucky, 17 percent of the state, including nearly a quarter million children, lack consistent access to nutritional meals. Of the 13 states that make up the Appalachia region, Kentucky has by far the worst poverty rate and, sadly, 20 percent of Eastern Kentuckians do not know where their next meal is coming from.
“Not all emergencies make the news,” said Molly Craig, an eighth-grade speaker from Rockcastle County Middle School. “It is hard for many of us to truly understand what it is like to be hungry. Did you know that students sneak food from the lunchroom to take home to their siblings who aren’t old enough to go to school? We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
Grateful Bread Food Pantry is doing its part to meet needs in the community. Every week, Christian Appalachian Project employees and volunteers pack 89 weekend food backpacks that are distributed through Rockcastle County Schools. Additionally, in the last fiscal year, CAP distributed 49,000 pounds of food each month to families through the food pantry and to elderly individuals through commodity distribution.
“In all that we do, it is heartbreaking to see the need that still remains,” said Sherri Barnett, the Hunger Walk coordinator. “There are so many people who still fall through the cracks, including the homeless and children in need. Sometimes it’s hard to think about, but the Hunger Walk, with the support of the community, shows that we can make an impact.”
This year, Rockcastle County Schools held a food drive the week prior to the Hunger Walk. Those items along with non-perishable food items brought on the day of the walk totaled 2,404 pounds of food that will help local residents. The food drive not only provided an educational experience for students but presented a real opportunity to participate in a joint community service project.
The Hunger Walk was co-sponsored by the City of Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County Schools, and Berea Wal-Mart. Among the 953 walkers were Mike Bryant, mayor of Mt. Vernon; Doug Bishop, Rockcastle County judge executive; Kenny Fields, manager of Berea Wal-Mart; and Shane Baker, field representative from the Office of the Governor. Additional featured speakers included Joy Frith, president of the Honors Club at Rockcastle County High School and Lila Holt, fifth grade class president at Mt. Vernon Elementary School.