‘Berea Kids Eat’ program feeds thousands of families for free

Martina Leforce distributing food in crates

Berea Kids Eat coordinator Martina Leforce ’07 preparing meals for children in the local community. Taken March 25, 2020.
(Photo: Crystal Wylie ’05)

By Jacqueline Nie
Originally posted on LEX18.com

When the pandemic hit Kentucky in March and schools were suddenly closed, children that relied on the USDA’s school lunch program were in turmoil after losing access to nutritious food.

The “Berea Kids Eat” program at Berea College responded and rallied together, serving up meals from local restaurants.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, there is a long line of cars, picking up breakfast and lunch for free.

“We have to have a protein, a vegetable, a fruit, a grain and a milk for every meal,” Berea Kids Eat coordinator Martina Leforce said.

Berea Kids Eat stepped in using emergency funding from the USDA’s summer food service program.

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“Basically, what we’re doing is we are offering what would have been the equivalent of school lunch, just during the pandemic. We serve about 4,000 meals a day,” Leforce said.

And a big part of the food comes from local restaurants and farmers. So far, the program has injected over $700,000 back into the economy.

“It started off with me calling and being like, ‘This might be out of left field, but would you be able to deliver us 2,000 subs a day to us sometime?’ Every owner responded, and they were excited not just because it helps their business from having to close their doors but they’re also able to help feed kids in the community,” Leforce said.

Since the program started in March, organizers say this is the longest the line has ever been. They say they expect to serve 9,000 meals today to cover families through the weekend.

“I’m glad to know we can help so many people. It’s also sad to know that many people need our help. But they’re so grateful. It’s nice to know we are here and able to help them,” program volunteer Bailey Alexander said.

Categories: News, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Berea Kids Eat, Grow Appalachia, Martina Leforce, Strategic Initiatives

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 41 states and 76 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.