Feeding programs support students during the summer
Those buses then pull into parking lots of apartment complexes, parks and other locations through the Paducah area. Everything is quiet, but only for a moment.
"Food truck! The food truck is here!" one kid yells through a screen door, and within seconds, dozens more run out of surrounding apartments, all racing toward breakfast.
"This is why we do it, this is why I get up every morning," said Curtis Medley, one of the truck drivers and a food service worker with the school system.
"It makes your day. You go home and you know you did something," he said. "It reminds you, when you put your feet on the floor each morning, what you're getting up to do."
Between stops at multiple housing authorities, the Oscar Cross Boys & Girls Club, daycares and parks, the group serves about 300 breakfasts and 700 lunches each day, said program supervisor Lisa Fox.
"We're serving our children, our future, and teaching them to serve the community as well, to give of themselves," she said. "We're no longer just 'lunch ladies' to them. They know our names, and we're part of their family now."
Another program, based at St. Mary High School and Middle School, serves about four locations in the McCracken and Ballard County area as well, serving about 500 meals a day, according to program director Trenia Kortz.
"It makes them feel safe, knowing that you're always going to be there," Kortz said. "We want to help make sure that everyone is getting food."
The services function under the national, federally funded Summer Food Service Program, designed to help provide those meals low-income families must find when school isn't in session.
"Nutrition is important all the time, but sometimes families are strapped to find the food to feed kids because they've been in school all year, being fed breakfast and lunch," Paducah program director Penny Holt said. "Then all of a sudden you have to provide those meals for them. That's hard, especially for caregivers who have several children to take care of and with the economy the way it is."
If the program keeps even one child from going hungry through the summer, she added, then "all the sweat and hard work, all of it has been worth it. That's the attitude we have."
When one of the food trucks pulled into a housing complex Friday morning, about 45 kids lined up for a cheeseburger, an apple or banana, and milk. About 10 of them, the first ones in line, got to eat their meal inside the food truck where beanbags, books and toys awaited them. "The people care. It makes you know that not everyone is selfish," Kevin Collins, 12, said as he squeezed mustard over his cheeseburger. "Some people don't get food all the time. Some people just don't have it."
Bouncing on a beanbag next to him sat his friend, James Crawford, 12, sipping on an orange juice box.
"Some people just don't feel like they have what they need," Crawford said. "But these people, they come out here and provide it. It makes you feel like you know that they care."
Serving the children is a calling, said Danna Myrick, another Paducah truck driver and food service worker. As a "lunch lady," she said she often feels invisible during the school year, as the children file through the cafeteria chatting with friends.
When she hops out of the food truck in the summer, however, those same kids come running, yelling, "'You're back! Do you remember me?' And you know you've made a difference."
"You know what these kids' stories are, you watch out for them and help them along. I wouldn't ever do anything else, it's what I was called to do," she said. "We're keeping in touch with them and letting them know we're not just there during the school year, we're there for them no matter what."