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Volunteers assemble boxes of food from Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland at left as vehicles line up to collect them Monday morning in the Caverna High School parking lot.

HORSE CAVE – Monday morning’s distribution of food from Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland at Caverna High School was a little different than the norm in multiple ways.

Amanda Abell, assistant superintendent for Caverna Independent Schools said she had called the organization to request an extra load of food.

“This wasn’t on our schedule, but we just have so many that struggle,” she said.

FAKH typically brings enough to Caverna to serve 250 to 300 households, but this time they brought enough for 600, and an hour into the three-hour event, she estimated that about 80 percent of it was gone. A line of vehicles had already accumulated by around 7 a.m., with the distribution beginning at 8:30 a.m.

“I don’t know how many have said, ‘Bless you’ or ‘Thank you; you don’t know how much I needed this,’” Abell said.

Under normal circumstances, a clipboard is handed into the vehicle for a signature but because of added precautions being taken to avoid any potential spread of the novel coronavirus that is causing COVID-19, those being assisted were not asked to do so this time.

“We’re not passing anything in and back out of the vehicles,” she said.

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Chris Crain, principal of Caverna High School, loads food from Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland into a car during a food distribution event in March in the school’s parking lot.

Three people were designated for loading the food straight into vehicles – one to open the door and two who carried and placed the boxes, and they were all wearing gloves, another thing that was different, as was Abell, who would read out the number on a sticky note placed on the windshield by volunteers who had helped direct the traffic into cues and asked about the number of households for which food was being collected, writing the number on the note. After she read the number aloud to let the others know how many boxes were needed, she would ask the vehicles’ occupants where in the vehicle they wanted the food, e.g. trunk, back seat or truck bed.

When Abell saw children in a vehicle, she would remind them that breakfast and lunch for students could be picked up at Caverna Elementary School.

More than two dozen people were on hand to direct traffic, assemble the food into boxes, etc., with several being personnel from the school system’s central office and other administrators, and city employees and Kiwanis Club of Caverna members were among them as well.

Cave City and Horse Cave police departments were helping to deliver the boxes containing chicken fajita strips, pork patties, canned pork, cheese, canned soups, fruits and tomato juice, cartons of orange juice and fresh prunes, apples and a dozen eggs to households that had called and requested them.

“We’re grateful that Feeding America was able to give us a truck that wasn’t on our original schedule,” Abell said.

She said that when they started doing food distributions at the Cave City Convention Center, she had spoken with Jamie Sizemore, executive director for Elizabethtown-based food bank Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland, “about our Caverna families,” and Sizemore suggested a partnership with the schools to envelope the Horse Cave community as well, and that started with the current school year, with two or three or four distributions already under their belts. Usually, they are before big school breaks, like at Christmas or long holiday weekends.

But with many people not working now because of the increasingly stringent efforts to prevent spread of the virus, the need is likely to be even larger.

“We agree with Gov. [Andy] Beshear on, it’s critical that we feed our families,” she said. “[Department of Education] Commissioner [Kevin] Brown indicated the same thing.”

Though schools are closed across the commonwealth and nontraditional instruction days have been approved, so the days won’t have to be made up at the end of the year, schools are continuing to provide the first two meals of the day for students either via pickup or delivery.

Pointing to the fact that there were twice as many boxes as usual and the pace at which they were going, Abell said, “I think this is very telling of the great need we have right now.”

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