NO MISSED MEALS

ELLEN O'NAN | The Sun

T he quote from an official on the front lines came at the end of a story -- "Local school systems keeping kids, teens fed during summer" -- published in Tuesday's edition.

Her words had emotional resonance, hopefully with readers like they did with the editorial board.

"Those of us working in cafeterias through the school years see so many children who don't eat, even from the weekend," Lisa Fox, Paducah Tilghman High School's cafeteria manager, told The Sun. "They'll come in on Monday mornings and they haven't eaten all weekend.

"This way, we know they get a good meal."

The story reported on efforts of the Paducah Independent and McCracken County school districts to provide area students -- low-income and otherwise -- with free breakfast and lunch while on summer break. Numerous feeding centers are available in both districts throughout the week.

The programs aren't new -- Paducah and McCracken have been operating them, with federal funding assistance, for four and six years, respectively.

The local story shed light on how necessary the food programs are for thousands of students. For Paducah Independent, the program feeds 1,500 to 2,000 students per year; for McCracken, the number is 500.

Education today is an easy and constant target -- often criticized and politicized, sometimes fairly, sometimes not. The editorial board has, at times, been among the critics.

But these socially responsible efforts by our local districts to feed children when they're away from the daily school structure rise above all that.

As Fox said, they ensure students from impoverished circumstances eat when they otherwise might not, providing a lifeline when some kids need it most.

That's noble work, beyond reproach, politics or criticism. The editorial board truly appreciates the staffing, resources and awareness of both districts to provide the programs, which, based on the numbers, address obvious local needs.

It's just a shame, regretable even, that the needs exist at all. In a country such as ours, in a community such as ours, where resources are plentiful and excess is everywhere, it's sad societal commentary that the stomaches of some children ache with hunger.

That applies to Paducah, McCracken County, and anywhere else.

Program language doesn't describe the students as hungry, however. They are, in bureaucratic jargon, "food-insufficient," a term that masks the reality. Let's please drop the facade; as a society and community, we can't fix problems until we confront them honestly, in plain terms.

Children who don't have enough food aren't insufficient -- they're hungry.

Thankfully, because of Paducah Independent and McCracken, there aren't as many in the summer. And while the programs aren't the solution hungry children need, they're a good start.

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