Kentucky families are facing greater levels of food insecurity and economic instability one year into the coronavirus pandemic, said a new report from the nonprofit group Save the Children.
In the report, the Commonwealth ranks in the top three states where food scarcity is highest for kids, along with Arkansas and Louisiana.
Alissa Taylor, state director for Kentucky rural education programs at Save the Children, said kids have been hard-hit by multiple crises, including this winter's ice storm and historic levels of flooding.
"What we're doing is working with the districts to get flood relief out," Taylor explained. "Some of them have lost their homes completely. We received photos from Breathitt County and Perry County where, you know, the homes slide off the mountain due to a mudslide, because of the floods."
Taylor stressed she's concerned kids will slide further in terms of learning, noting the extended disruption from school has been devastating for families without the tools needed for effective remote learning.
She said 60% of low-income students regularly logged in for online instruction, compared to 90% of higher-income students.
Taylor believes districts should begin implementing programs to help keep kids engaged and help them catch up on their school now that many are returning to classrooms.
"A lot of them have burnout from being online for so long," Taylor cautioned. "So, what are some exciting opportunities that can be offered now that kids are returning to school, to have fun and get excited about education again?"
Taylor also pointed to innovative approaches like Save the Children's cash-card project, funded by private donors. She explained the cards allowed families flexibility to use funds based on their own needs.
"So, to purchase internet services, to buy a data plan from their cell phone provider, to pay some utility bills, to buy clothing for their children, things that other relief efforts weren't covering," Taylor outlined.
Nationwide, 69% of households with children have reported recent difficulty paying for usual household expenses, while 45% say it's been "somewhat or very" difficult to keep up with expenses for food, supplies and bills.
The report noted Black families are six times more likely to struggle to pay bills than white families.