Feeding America estimates that over 2,000 individuals in Pendleton County do not know when or where they will receive their next meal. Kelli Horn is doing her part to help serve about 200 of these households.
Kelli oversees the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission (NKCAC) neighborhood center and coordinates the mobile pantry program in Falmouth, where Freestore Foodbank has been delivering a steady supply of nutritious staples for two years, thanks to a grant from The R.C. Durr Foundation. The intent of the three year grant was to provide capacity-building support and monthly food to 100 families, while gradually reducing the frequency of distributions as the community builds resources to establish a permanent pantry.
Kelli quickly realized there were far more than 100 families in need of food and adjusted the distribution schedule to allow broader access, which has meant that each family receives food less frequently.
“We’re looking at high rates of unemployment due to a lack of jobs here and a lack of accessibility to other communities where jobs are located,” says Kelli as she smiles and greets the families collecting their food. “I know we need a permanent pantry,” she adds, “and have been researching community sources for support, but look around. There are few factories and businesses here. We are having trouble finding support to help feed these families.”
Kelli and her community partners, supported by Freestore Foodbank, will spend the final year of the grant garnering financial support, participating in the Hunger Walk, and continuing to seek steady sources of donated food to stock the NKCAC pantry.
The reality that the people of Pendleton County face is not unlike most rural counties across America. This same geography that helps feed the nation and world through its abundance of farms also ironically lends itself to hunger within its boundaries. There are higher rates of unemployment and underemployment and, as Kelli points out, those with jobs tend to work in low-wage industries. In addition, services that support employment, such as flexible and affordable child care and public transportation, are far less available. For these reasons, rates of food insecurity in rural communities are generally higher. “This is why people find it so difficult to find opportunities outside Pendleton County,” says Kelli, “but also why we struggle to find support within it.”
“I lived in Burlington for years,” says Kelli, as she lifts a bag of groceries and helps an elderly woman out to her car, “and I came back home because I want to help the people here who need it.” She is not alone in her efforts. “Everyone here helping is a volunteer, and all of them are also in need of food,” says Kelli. “They offer their time because it’s all they can give. It’s all any of us have. Hopefully, we’ll find new support in time to keep fighting hunger in Pendleton County.”
If you would like to help Kelli fight hunger in Pendleton County, contact Telly McGaha at [email protected] or (513) 482-7542.