Following rising unemployment rates and consequent loss of income due to COVID-19, many people have been seeking meal assistance. This study examines the impact of a community-based free meal distribution program during the pandemic in Kentucky, reviewing characteristics of recipients of the program. Demographics, health behaviors, food insecure classification, and rating of importance of the meal program were collected. Qualitative feedback on the impact of the program was collected via open response. Of the 92 participants using the meal service, the cohort was female, Black, 43 years of age (43.5 ± 15.0 years), with a household income under 30,000 USD before COVID, decreased income since COVID, and were food insecure. Recipients rated the importance of the service as 8.7 ± 1.8 (of 10), and those with children indicated the importance as 4.2 ± 1.1 (of 5). Qualitative data on program importance highlighted four response categories including “changed habits”, “mental wellbeing”, “provided resources”, and “other”. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals have struggled. Meal assistance programs are a fundamental asset in the community that have seen marketed demand since COVID-19. Collaboration with, and evaluation of, meal assistance programs can be valuable for continued programmatic funding support.

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Published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, v. 18, issue 20, 10786.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This publication was supported by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through Grant UL1TR001998.

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Data is available from the PI upon request.