ERLANGER, Ky. -- Twenty percent of all children in Ohio and Kentucky lack access to enough food for a healthy lifestyle, according to the Kentucky Association of Food Banks and Children's Hunger Alliance . In Indiana, the statistic is even more grim: 25 percent .
Childhood hunger and the poverty that usually accompanies it are often-invisible problem that beget others , including low academic achievement, chronic stress and the development of serious behavioral problems.
"You can't have fun or learn unless you're fed properly," grandmother Sheila Horn said. "They will fall behind, and that makes it harder for them socially."
The Kenton County Public Library will spend the summer partnering with the Elsemere School District to fight the interlaced problems -- hunger and poor academic achievement -- with one initiative. Every day, library branches will serve free meals to any child under 18 and encourage them to participate in summer reading programs that keep their minds active over the break from school.
Adults can also purchase meals for $3.
"We want to make sure children are well-fed, that their bodies and their minds are being fed," said Lisa Tewes, children's services coordinator at the Erlanger branch of the Kenton County Library. "We're not just sitting here waiting for people to find us. We want to go out there, to be really integral to whatever is happening in the community.
Horn, who took her three grandchildren to grab a free meal and check out books at the library, said she was pleased to see the program in her community.
"There are a lot of people in the Northern Kentucky area that's poor and need more money and help with lunches," she said. "When we were growing up, I was the oldest of six kids … my mom was a single mom, and something like this really would've helped her money stretch further."