Education Health

Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) said they got more than a million meals to thousands of students last week to try to hold them over during the winter break. But it still wasn’t enough. Nutrition workers had to turn away many families from the meal sites last Thursday after food ran out

Now, a group of grassroots organizations is stepping up to help fill the gap.

On Monday, volunteers Quinton Johnson and Stephon Lamont were giving out frozen meals to passersby outside of BLM Church on West Broadway.

“That sounds delicious,” one man said as he grabbed a plastic container of Asian chicken and rice, and chicken alfredo pasta. 

The meals were cooked by volunteers with the Lee Initiative, run by local chef Edward Lee. Johnson and Lamont had answered a callout from Shauntrice Martin, who runs Feed The West, a food justice organization that provides groceries to people, mostly in Louisville’s West End. 

“They needed meals in the West because the JCPS meals had run out,” Lamont said. Lamont is with another food justice organization, Feed Louisville, which focuses on getting food to people experiencing homelessness. 

Last Thursday, when JCPS ran out of food, Martin started hearing from families that they needed extra meals. JCPS says the district provided about two weeks worth of meals and snacks to 21,000 students to get them through the winter break, when meal sites are closed. But there are about 65,000 JCPS students who rely on the school district for food. Some sites ran out of meals in under an hour.

Martin said she and Leo Braddick, who runs Children Shouldn’t Hunger, were talking online about the problem.

“We all just talked over social media and were like, ‘we have to do something,’” Martin said. 

Through Feed The West, Martin said she has collected enough money and resources to provide 8,000 meals this week to JCPS families. Families can request meals or groceries online. Volunteers with Black Lives Matter Louisville have been delivering meals. Feed the West will also hold several meal pickup sites on Wednesday afternoon. 

Volunteers will be going door-to-door in the Park Hill community to hand out free meals on Wednesday afternoon as well.

Martin said she wants to work with JCPS moving forward to see if Feed The West can help the district fill gaps in its food service. Many in Louisville faced food insecurity before the pandemic, but job losses, quarantines and sickness have dramatically increased the number of people who need food assistance.

“We’ve just seen that a lot of bigger organizations and institutions are not able to pivot or adjust at all,” Martin said.

JCPS director of nutrition services Julia Baushcer told WFPL News last week the district had maxed out its kitchen and cafeteria space in order to provide the amount of food it did at one time. Before the district ran out, food workers provided more than 1,000,000 meals as part of “Operation Winter Break.”

You can donate to Feed The West by sending money through CashApp or Venmo with #FeedTheWest in the memo.

CashApp: $BlackMarketKY or $ChangeTodayChangetmw

Venmo: @BlackMarketKY or @ChangeTodayChangeTMW

Those wishing to volunteer to pass out meals with Feed The West should meet at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Logan Street Market. 

To request groceries from Feed The West, you can fill out this Google form.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.