This week marks the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week and USDA is celebrating the achievements of the more than 8,700 markets across the county. In rural eastern Kentucky, over the summer, a remarkable thing happened in the small community of Whitesburg. Local, state and federal officials all worked together to create the first-ever USDA "Summer Feeding Site" for children to be held at a local farmers market in Kentucky.
The Summer Feeding Site project that was launched in Whitesburg is part of USDA's Summer Food Service Program that provides free meals to children from low-income households. Over the summer break, many of these kids and teens are in danger of not eating properly or going hungry because they don't have access to school meals.
Children participating in Whitesburg's Summer Feeding Site program enjoyed healthy meals like breakfast wraps, fresh eggs and fruit smoothies that were served from a mobile kitchen donated by the Mountain Shrine Club. Local growers provided most of the food items for the meals.
Letcher County is a persistent poverty county in the Appalachian region where residents are at higher risk for health concerns such as obesity, and approximately 60 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced price school lunches. The county is one of the areas targeted for assistance through USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative to combat the effects of rural poverty. It is also part of the Obama Administration’s Promise Zone Initiative to increase Federal investments in economically distressed regions.
USDA Rural Development partnered with a variety of public and private local, state and federal agencies to help fund and start the new summer meals program in Whitesburg. In addition to providing local children with healthy meals, the program also benefitted agricultural producers in the region. The team members who helped launch this new program are working to enable more farmers markets across Kentucky to become summer feeding program sites.
Visit USDA Rural Development's website to learn more about how our financial programs can help support local or regional foods projects in rural areas.