Salvation Army Owensboro

As Kentucky continues to recover from the job losses and the unpredictability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of America’s iconic social service organizations is finding many families in the Owensboro region struggling to make ends meet.  

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Lt. Judah Irvin, commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Owensboro, which serves Daviess, Hancock, McLean and Ohio counties. 

Lt. Irvin said the organization is seeing an increasing need among adults and children for that most basic of necessities: food. 

Feeding Kentucky/Farms to Food Banks

A perfect appearance isn’t everything when it comes to produce. 

The Kentucky Farms to Food Banks program proves that by purchasing what's affectionately called 'ugly produce.'  That's fruits and vegetables with a bruise or imperfect shape that makes it hard to sell to grocery stores that want to display 'perfect' produce. 

But ugly produce can still be fresh and nutritious, and help stock the pantries of families that are food insecure. 

The Farms to Food Banks program is beginning to line up farmers who want to sell extra produce ranging from apples to zuccini this year.

Farms to Food Banks is in excellent financial shape thanks to the generosity that continued through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Feeding America Kentucky's Heartland

The job losses and months of virtual learning when children didn’t get school meals during the pandemic created a hunger crisis for many Kentucky families.

Now, the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines in the Bluegrass State and the decline in cases of the virus has eased the hunger crisis as some parts of life become closer to normal. 

Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland is continuing its regular food distribution to about 1,000 households at Lampkin Park in Warren County once a month. 

But with many children returning to in-person learning at school, and getting some of their meals there, Feeding America has combined two emergency distributions in Warren County into one monthly location. 

Glynis Board | WV Public Broadcasting

The Biden administration announced Monday the expansion of a nutrition program, born amid the start of the pandemic, that could provide more food to nearly 2 million children throughout Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia this summer. 

The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT, program started last March to provide money to low-income families whose children were missing meals normally received at school, programs that were disrupted by the pandemic. Funds are loaded onto a card for individual families to purchase food for their children. The program is now being expanded through the summer, providing food dollars for families alongside the existing food distribution programs run by districts.

Green River Area Development District

This week’s winter weather is keeping those who deliver meals to Kentucky’s senior citizens off the roads.

But hunger doesn’t take a break during snow storms. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept Kentucky’s elderly residents away from the meals and social connections at area senior centers.  

The isolation required to avoid the virus has now been combined with the suspension of delivered meals when roads are too icy for drivers. 

Jennifer Williams is Director for Aging and Social Services for the Owensboro-based Green River Area Development District.  She oversees the Senior Home Delivered Meals Program for a seven-county region. 


Stacey Oakley/Hope 2 All

The year 2020 has dropped two major challenges on the residents of Muhlenberg County.

First, a major plant shut down, followed by COVID-19. That one-two punch has dramatically increased food insecurity in the county.

During the pandemic, Hope 2 All food pantry has given out boxes of food to about 4,000 families a month at its Muhlenberg County site in Drakesboro.  

A year ago, about 1,000 families a month came to that location pick up  food.

Brad Payne has been director of the Hope 2 All community pantries for 10 years.

Facebook/Feeding America Kentucky's Heartland

The pandemic has caused thousands of people across Kentucky, and the nation, to lose their jobs and struggle to keep food on the table. 

Emergency food distributions, including two this week, are helping hundreds of Warren County families who are hungry.

Feeding Kentucky has already been bringing food once a month to Lampkin Park in Warren County. But since the pandemic, the food bank has added emergency distributions once a month at two additional parks.

Jamie Sizemore, executive director of the food bank that serves 42 counties, said many people may not realize how many families don’t have enough to eat.

“We’ve never in the history of this food bank, or any food bank within the Feeding America network, have we ever seen the magnitude of food insecurity due to so many issues," said Sizemore. "It’s just overwhelming.”

Damon Mitchell | WPLN (file)

The pandemic’s ripple effects have meant 1.5 million more kids are going hungry, according to a new study in the medical journal Pediatrics. The polling data puts numbers to a food insecurity problem that has been occurring out of sight.

The study is based on national polling of parents with kids under 18. And roughly 2% said that since March, they have become unable to afford all the food they need.

Dr. Stephen Patrick of Vanderbilt University Medical Center is the lead author and says the statistically significant uptick represents 1.5 million children.

Aaron Payne | Ohio Valley ReSource

A new study shows the Ohio Valley has some of the nation’s highest rates of food insecurity among older adults, and anti-hunger advocates say that situation could be made worse by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The annual study was published May 21 in partnership with researchers from the University of Kentucky, researchers from University of Illinois, and the nonprofit food bank organization Feeding America. The researchers used Census Bureau survey data from 2018 which asked households with adults aged 50-59 a series of questions to determine whether they were food insecure.

Facebook/ Hardin County Schools

The Hardin County Schools summer feeding program begins Tuesday, May 26.

Meals will be given out at three schools and mobile distribution will be at stops in neighborhoods across the county.

“This year our fixed sites are three high schools, Central Hardin High School, John Hardin High School and North Hardin High School," said district spokesman John Wright. Lunch will be available at those sites every weekday from 11 a.m  to 1 p.m.

The meals are free to anyone 18 or younger.

Feeding America Kentucky's Heartland

Hunger in Kentucky is increasing as COVID-19 precautions have shut down most businesses, while senior citizens and others with underlying medical conditions are staying home.

Emergency distributions are helping to keep food on the table during this difficult time.

Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland has been assessing the 42 counties it serves. Executive Director Jamie Sizemore said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic means families just do not have enough money to pay for housing, utilities and food.

“Our partner agencies are reporting everywhere from a 30-60 percent increase in food assistance," said Sizemore. "And one of the things, obviously, we’re seeing is a lot of people that are first-time users of food banks or food assistance programs.”


Kentucky and West Virginia have recently been added to a federal pilot program to allow food stamp recipients to purchase groceries online, and Ohio Valley anti-hunger advocates say it’s a good move to improve food accessibility amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The pilot program lets those receiving food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to make grocery purchases online. The program began in New York in April, 2019, but many states including Kentucky and West Virginia have just recently joined the program to let SNAP recipients buy food with less face-to-face interaction. 


Rhonda J. Miller

As residents of Kentucky and the rest of the nation are advised to stay home as much as possible to avoid the spread of coronavirus, the Bowling Green Housing Authority's "Mobile Grocery" is making that easier, especially for low-income, homebound and elderly residents.

The bus offers food, household items, and a sense of community.

The cheerful white bus painted with pictures of apples, eggs and milk recently rolled to a stop in front of a Warren County mobile home with an American flag.

Nancy Hendricks, 80, is waiting in her driveway with her green cloth bag with the Mobile Grocery logo. Bus driver Danny Carothers fills her shopping list.

“So I’ve got your crackers, your two paper towels, your water and your two percent milk,” said Carothers, as he totals her bill for today: $6.65. 

Rhonda J. Miller

A health care organization in Henderson, Kentucky is reviving a tradition likely to make many people feel better, not just in theory, but in actual medical terms.

Methodist Health has a nurse practitioner who makes house calls to treat patients in rural communities. 

Dogs don’t usually announce the start of a medical appointment, but barking dogs on the front porch are a typical greeting for Nurse Practitioner Crystal Buchanan when she makes a house call to see Susan Turner in the Henderson County community of Cairo. 

"Susan, how are ya?” Buchanan asks as she opens the front door. 

G.J. Strang/University of Kentucky

Kentucky’s Farms to Food Banks program increased the types of produce purchased from farmers in 2019.

It also began a new project to freeze some items that were sent along to food banks.

Farms to Food Banks buys what’s sometimes called “ugly produce.” It’s healthy, but not perfect enough in appearance to be sold to grocery stores.

The program pays farmers enough to cover the cost of labor, packaging and transportation, and keeps the imperfect produce from going to waste.

Sarah Vaughn, programs coordinator for Feeding Kentucky, said the program bought 22 types of produce in 2018, with that figure increasing to 28 varieties in 2019.