MOUNT VERNON — Access to local food resources will become a little easier starting June 17.

Through a $2,000 Food for the Hungry grant, Knox County’s mobility management program will partner with Knox Area Transit to provide free transportation to farm markets, food pantries, and hot meal programs.

“We are also including transportation for the kids and their parents to get to the buses to get to the free lunch program offered by the school,” Mobility Management Director Susie Simpson said.

Residents can call 392-RIDE (7433) and schedule a ride. Residents will not pay the fare; the FFTH grant funding will cover the cost.

“Probably the earlier you call the better because we’ll have a better chance to get you in before we’re overbooked,” KAT Transit Director Bethany Celmar said.

“Callers need to make sure they say farmers market or hot meal. They need to be specific what they want it for so they know how to charge it,” Simpson added.

Residents in outlying areas of the county could also use the program, either locally or to come into Mount Vernon. For example, Centerburg-area residents can request a ride into the village to access a food pantry or a ride to a Mount Vernon hot meal program.

When riders call to schedule a trip, they will also schedule their return trip.

Celmar said KAT developed a tentative pick-up schedule for rural residents wanting to visit Mount Vernon’s Saturday farm market:

•Centerburg 8:30-9 am

•Danville 9:30-10 am

•Fredericktown 10-10:30 am

KAT will pick up residents at their homes and drop them off at Public Square. For the trip home, KAT will pick riders up at Public Square at the following times:

•Centerburg 10:30 am

•Danville 11 am

•Fredericktown 11:30 am

“I don’t know if we’ll need that, but we wanted to be strategic and not be running back and forth all day,” Celmar said of the tentative schedule.

“Each rider will have their own ride booked from their house to the square and from the square to their house, but we will coordinate all similar area rides to be on the same bus and in the same time range. Riders need to know that they need to schedule their rides and will be directed by our schedulers to book the rides at specific times.”

Celmar said that if quite a few from the same area schedule a ride, KAT will consider designating a pickup location, such as the square in Fredericktown or the gazebo in Centerburg.

“It will depend on demand,” she said.

“We don’t know what the interest is going to be, but I think it’s important to establish this [program]. It’s one less barrier to getting good vegetables.”

Regarding the hot meals program, Celmar said transportation to the meals will not be a problem, but the trip home might be tricky.

Most of the hot meals begin at 6 pm. KAT’s goal is to have all buses back in the garage by 7 pm, so rides must be scheduled by 6:30-6:45 to return from a hot meal.

“KAT being closed for the return trip might be an issue. We do still have a Gambier shuttle running, so somebody close by can get a ride home on that shuttle. But if they’re across town, it’s not doable right now,” Celmar said, adding that she is working on additional funding sources to expand the program.

KAT will fine-tune the program as it progresses. In the meantime, Celmar said it offers good access to good food.

“We are just trying to eliminate as many barriers as possible,” she said. “We hope this becomes an annual thing and will continue.

“This will be the kick-off year, and we’ll see where the demand is. We will be tracking the data: who rides and who utilizes the program. We really hope people take advantage of it.”

KAT will post a list of farm markets and addresses for the hot meals programs on its website.

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A Christian ultrarunner who likes coffee and quilting

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