Action Ministries provides weekend food for children who rely on school for meals

More by....

Kids whose parents are low income can eat a free breakfast and lunch at school Monday through Friday, but what happens on the weekend? 

Family Resource Coordinators in Kenton County Schools work with classroom teachers to find students who need weekend food supplies. Those coordinators put in an order with Action Ministries, and small packages of individually portioned foods arrive at their schools, where they can discretely be slipped into a backpack and used over the weekend.

Action Ministries Board of Directors Secretary Sandy Banta noticed the need for supplementary weekend lunches, which inspired her to start Food for Thought.

The weekend program supplies 200 children each week which runs alongside the usual food pantry serving 900 families each month provided by the Action Ministries program in Latonia.

Action Ministries volunteers load carts of food for clients who come monthly to receive assistance. Photo: Ann Mort | LINK nky contributor

While the family system is somewhat regulated with certain household income criteria for participation, the school weekend food program has no such restrictions—just a hungry kid who needs help. No fuss, no muss, just enough goodies to last the weekend.

A noble undertaking, but it is difficult for the volunteers at Action Ministries to come up with the items to put in those much-needed bags. Even with food donations, each of those packs costs $5.

Banta always knows where the best deals are on all those food items. Children in 15 different schools in Kenton County receive weekend packages. In one school alone, 25 children receive aid.

The packs are assembled at Lakeside Christian Church with 50 volunteers assembling 800 bags in about 45 minutes. The church supplies two cans of Chef Boyardee for each pack. The rest is purchased or donated.

More news:  Scott High to participate in McDonald's Digital Sports Day Fundraiser
Sandy Banta and Paul Barth putting together weekend food bag. Photo: Ann Mort | LINK nky contributor

Items in a Food for Thought weekend package are two cans of spaghetti and two individual portions each of juice, cereal, applesauce, Slim Jims, peanut butter/cracker packages, trail mix, a granola bar, sweet snack and sometimes microwave popcorn.

There is also a flyer from Action Ministries telling parents how to qualify for food for the family. Action Ministries uses the USDA Food Program Income Eligibility Scale, meaning a household with one person must have less than $1,473 income per month, or a family of four earning less than $3,007 would be eligible for their assistance.

One of the issues confronting the food program is that the size of families is growing and the cost of the cart of food given to families has also grown from $3.34 last year to about $8 recently. 

Contents of Food for Thought weekend package. Photo by Ann Mort/LINK nky contributor

Per Paul Barth, chairman of the board and warehouse manager, funding and food items come from many sources. Action Ministries receives food donations from the government, regular cash donations from the Durr and Butler Foundations, KY Colonels, seven area churches, FEMA and last year, $2,500 thanks to Kroger shoppers who designated Action Ministries as a charity of choice.

Rumpke, the next-door neighboring business to Action Ministries, calls monthly to ask what is needed. In a few days, a significant delivery of paper products, soup or pasta will appear. Free Store Food Bank partners with many organizations, such as Kroger stores and Walmart, that donate excess items to Action Ministries. 

“Just when we run out of money, an unexpected check will arrive,” Banta said.

More news:  KY governor race heats up with record spending, attack ads

Paul Barth, Action Ministries board of directors chairman, said food donations from all sources have scaled back recently, meaning Action Ministries must purchase more items to meet the needs of those 900 families.

As to why he spends most of his days at Action Ministries, leading his army of volunteers and being the hands-on guy who unloads food and pushes carts around, Barth said, “ I love helping people.”

His pre-retirement work life also had usefulness in his new chosen job. He was IT manager with a credit card processing company. He retired on a Friday and started at Action Ministries the following Monday.

What keeps Action Ministries afloat are cash donations, food items and volunteers. From administration to floor sweeping, it is all done by unpaid volunteers. 

Since 1994 when the operation began in a resource room closet in Ryland Heights Elementary School, to the extra garage at Decoursey Baptist Church to the now 8,000 square feet of warehouse space built on a lot purchased through a donation from a single individual, the operation continues to grow.

With an annual budget of $158,000, about $50,000 goes toward mortgage, insurance, gas for the truck and the unavoidable costs of any operation, leaving $108,000 to buy food for the families.

The all-volunteer operation also has an all-inclusive way of using whatever ability is offered. Some volunteers sit and sort, others sweep the floors, drive the delivery truck, or welcome clients at the front desk.

While money is the best and easiest way to help the program, products never go to waste. 

More news:  Kenton County's Fall Cleanup happens this weekend

“We use absolutely everything donated, such as feminine products, diapers, shampoo, deodorant,” Barth said. “Food Stamps won’t cover the cost of many needed products.”

For more information, call 859-261-3649 or visit

More articles

More by...

Latest articles

In Case You Missed It