Responding to their families' number one need: food

Navigating the changes set in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been daunting for families. Child care plans, work schedules, layoffs, and strained finances have affected many families.

In addition, many households rely on meals provided by school districts to feed their children throughout the day, and with schools closed, bridging that gap has been difficult.

In response to this health crisis, the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission has pivoted in it's approach to serving families, and is one of several organizations and businesses doing what they can since March to help provide meals during the coronavirus shutdown.

For each of the last seven weeks, close to 350 weekly food boxes of urgently needed items have been handed out to families participating in the agency's Head Start and Community Services programs. And the needs are growing.

“Northern Kentucky CAC is here to serve the community during this unprecedented time," NKCAC Executive Director Catrena Bowman-Thomas says. "Every day we are talking with our families, asking about their greatest needs, and the number one need is food. We are working with many community partners and private companies, such as Gordon Foods, but resources are scarce,”

The agency is easing the burden on some of the families involved with its Head Start and Early Head Start education programs. Assembled and delivered to families, the boxes are filled with weekly amounts of food staples. As the weeks go on, NKCAC has received an increasing number of requests for food.

“This is a very scary time for families that were already disadvantaged,” Bowman-Thomas says. “But we are standing with them shoulder to shoulder to get through this crisis. We know that we will come out stronger, wiser, and better together.”

The agency serves eight Northern Kentucky counties: Kenton, Boone, Campbell, Grant, Gallatin, Pendleton, Carroll, and Owen.

NKCAC is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in Northern Kentucky. In normal times, it does much more than feed families. NKCAC promotes self-sufficiency and supports individuals and families striving to become economically secure while investing in the future of its local Northern Kentucky community.

NKCAC is a member of a national network of 1,060 agencies, funded in part by the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) that funds services to approximately 7 million families nationwide, totaling 16 million low-income persons each year. More than two-thirds have incomes at or below the federal poverty guideline.

The agency is now taking applications over the phone and using new technologies to communicate. Those Northern Kentucky residents in need of health insurance, food, utility or rental assistance can contact NKCAC for help at 859-292-5222 to speak directly to a staff member, or call 859-439-4004, or go to to schedule an appointment. For more information about NKCAC, please visit

Continued COVID-19 coverage has been supported by a grant from the Facebook Journalism Project, a program run in partnership with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and Local Media Association.

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Read more articles by Kareem A. Simpson.

Raised in the inner city of Covington, Kentucky, Kareem Simpson is an author, innovator, community enthusiast, military veteran, serial entrepreneur, foodie and lover of all things creative.