Filling a void

Alice Lloyd College takes on hunger in Appalachian Kentucky

Participants in Alice Lloyd College’s Power Up with Nutrition program pack lunches for local students

In Knott County, Kentucky, an estimated 80 percent of public school students are low-income and as many as 1,000 are actually homeless. The Knott County School District provides a free breakfast and lunch to students on school days but many still go hungry. Teachers often see students taking home their Friday lunches just to ensure they have something to eat over the weekend.

Knott County is also home to the Sullivan Foundation’s own Alice Lloyd College — a college founded to provide an affordable and excellent education to the students of Appalachia and dedicated to serving the people of the region.

When Associate Professor of Business Denise Jacobs learned of the dilemma facing so many students in her community, she felt that Alice Lloyd had an obligation to make whatever difference in the community they could.

Jacobs’ realization led to the building of a team of faculty and students at the college and the birth of the Power Up with Nutrition program. The program aims to develop a system to provide bags of nutritious food to students identified as homeless or in need at the end of every week. The program also aims to instill a sense of duty to serve others in the Alice Lloyd students who volunteer.

“It’s absolutely heart-breaking to me that young kids were going hungry,” says Sarah Woolridge, a student involved in the program. “I think it would be awesome to get the whole community involved and really help make a difference.”

The pilot program began in August 2014, with Alice Lloyd students hand-packing one-gallon bags with a variety of proteins, fruits, and grains and delivering them to Jones Fork Elementary, the county’s smallest school. Each student in need receives a bag on Friday, and additional bags are sent before extended holidays.

Since its inception, a half dozen campus groups and numerous individuals at Alice Lloyd College have joined Power Up with Nutrition. They hope to expand to serve more schools as funding becomes available, with sights already set on Beaver Elementary, the school that serves residents in the college’s immediate community.

Growing their own program is only half the mission, however. Power Up with Nutrition also plans to continue refining and perfecting the model so that it can be easily adapted by other institutions. Already, one local church and the county chapter of GEAR UP (a U.S. Department of Education program to help low-income students get to college) have adopted schools and started their own programs.

Jacobs has been pleased with the progress made so far. Still, her sights are set primarily on what still needs to be done.

“The students and I are very excited about this opportunity to help children in our community,” she says. “It’s a humbling experience to hear how appreciative these local students are to receive their food pack. We hope to see the program grow to reach even more children in Knott County.”

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