Food program prevents hunger during summer
A statewide program meant to curb childhood hunger during the summer needs volunteers to spread the word.
North Carolina’s Summer Food Service Program, which launched mid-June, serves meals to underprivileged children who would normally receive free and reduced lunches during the school year. More than 350 sites in 50 counties, including Mecklenburg, Iredell and Lincoln counties, serve low-income families by providing lunches and snacks to children Monday through Friday.
“Perhaps the biggest barrier we have to overcome is transportation,” Al Delia, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services secretary, said. “We have more sites than ever before, but we have trouble getting children to the meals, especially in rural areas and in big towns and cities where parents may not be able to provide their own transportation.”
The department needs volunteers and community groups to supervise children during meals, assist with meal preparation and cleanup, transport food to meal sites and spread the word in low-income neighborhoods.
An N.C. Health and Human Services press release stated that last summer only 12 percent of children eligible for meals participated in the Summer Feeding Program and a similar program operated by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
“We want our kids to have fun and remain active during the summer, but summer meals are especially challenging for families who count on school breakfast and lunch during the school year, Gov. Bev Perdue said at the program’s launch at Thomasboro Academy in Charlotte.
N.C. Department of Health and Human Service administers meals throughout the state, while food is supplied and funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has operated a summer feeding program for the past four decades. However, No Kid Hungry’s North Carolina chapter chose the district, along with 11 others, to participate in a pilot program for expanding its summer food services.
The USDA gave pilot schools a waiver from certain administrative requirements. The pilot program allows the district to receive the “highest reimbursement for meals served,” a press release said.
The program continues until mid-August, a couple of weeks before schools are back in session. While students must be approved to receive free- and reduced-lunch during the school year, any child 18 or younger are allowed to receive meals.
“I think that you sort of get used to having food and all the necessities needed for life,” Miller said. “You can see how truly impactful the program is by the looks on (the children’s) faces.”
Families may go online to www.nc.nokidhungry.org or text FoodNC to 877-877 to find the nearest summer meal site. Community groups or those interested in volunteering with the Summer Food Service Program should call its closest meal distribution site.