JCPS program runs out of food as families throng to sites before the holidays – Courier Journal

JCPS program runs out of food as families throng to sites before the holidays – Courier Journal

Ayana Archie

Lucas Aulbach
| Louisville Courier Journal

A Jefferson County Public Schools initiative offering families two weeks of food to get through the holiday break quickly ran out of supplies Thursday as families thronged to its more than 100 sites. 

Jenna Hettenbach, 32, said she visited seven different schools to try to get food, but they were all out.

“It was insane,” said Hettenbach, who added she has relied on getting her family food through JCPS since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

At Layne Elementary in southwest Louisville, organizers had only been at the site for an hour and a half Thursday before running out of supplies by 11:30 a.m. Dozens of cars were still in line.

The district, which hasn’t held in-person classes since spring, has distributed food every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the pandemic. But this was its first time distributing food for the holiday break, and the last time it would do so until January.

JCPS spokesman Mark Hebert said the break was the reason for the long lines. 

“The best thing to come out of it is more families know about (the program) and can get what they need,” Hebert said. 

Top headlines: Kentucky suffers worst day for COVID-19 deaths Thursday 

Families and workers across Louisville have been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, with shutdowns and restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 7,079 Kentuckians filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, with an additional 6,755 submitting initial Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims. 

More than 1 million Kentuckians have had to file for unemployment assistance during the pandemic.

Two-thirds of JCPS’ nearly 100,000 students receive free or reduced lunches. And Dan Ellnor, nutrition service center manager for the district, said the food distribution program’s reach has gone beyond that during the downturn.

“It’s the kids at the end of the cul-de-sac we’re seeing now, the families that normally make ends meet,” Ellnor said. “Those are the ones that we’re seeing in a pinch now and are coming through the lines.”

Organizers planned to hand out more than 600,000 meals to families in need Thursday, approximately 1 million pounds of food, to help them during the holiday break, he said.

Food given to families included chili, breakfast items, shelf-stable milk, frozen strawberries and other meal kit materials. 

Ellnor said 40 to 50 food locations closed before noon because they’d run out. 

On a typical school day, JCPS hands out approximately 100,000 meals to students. Thursday’s distribution increased that number tenfold, Hebert said. 

Read this: SCOTUS declines to review Beshear order halting in-person classes

Hettenbach, a stay-at-home mom whose two children are ages 2 and 8, said Thursday was the most crowded she’s seen the distribution sites. 

She goes twice a week and said the pickups usually are enough food for her, the kids and her husband, who has been working extra hours at UPS.

JCPS typically disseminates the food in the mornings, but reserves some of its stock for an afternoon shift that operates from 3 to 5 p.m. at 10 sites. 

Hettenbach was looking forward to those afternoon shifts after not getting any food during her usual morning pickup, but the school system had to suspend those services after running out of food by 1 p.m. 

Some, including Hettenbach, are worried people without kids are taking advantage of the program. She said she would like to see some system in place to ensure people who have children and regularly use the program are served. 

To help accommodate the demand, JCPS also has a mobile delivery program that takes food to more rural areas and learning hubs, where private schools host some in-person instruction.

Other school districts in Kentucky have used school buses to help deliver food, and Hebert said that while JCPS’ network has fulfilled usual needs, that move is “still on the table.” 

Related: Louisville charities fear COVID-19 will put chill on holiday giving

Contact Ayana Archie at or follow her on Twitter @AyanaArchie. 

Food help: Where to go and how to give 

Louisville Salvation Army: The Salvation Army does weekly food distributions at its main facility, 911 South Brook St. The foods include essential items such as produce, proteins and nonperishables. If you would like to donate food, you can do so on weekdays during business hours. 

Dare to Care Food Bank: By visiting, users can access an interactive map that will show food pantry locations. The Kids Cafe program also provides meals for children. To donate money or volunteer, go to 

Published at Fri, 18 Dec 2020 00:09:33 +0000

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