Last year, nearly one million low-income North Carolina public school students and children received meals during the school year, but less than 15 percent received meals or snacks at approved summer meal sites in their neighborhoods, according to a press release from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
To help address this critical need, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) School Nutrition Services staff, along with a number of statewide partners, have announced the availability of the Summer Nutrition Programs (Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option) for students across the state. Once the school year ends, nearly 3,000 summer nutrition meals sites will help bridge the school meals gap until the beginning of the new school year.
Cindy Marion, director of child nutrition with Yadkin County Schools, said this is the third year the Summer Nutrition program had been offered in the county.
“We are currently working every year with local churches and organizations to try to expand that program,” Marion said.
One of the challenges with a rural county is that there are not many sites within walking distance for children to come to for the meals. For this reason, Marion said they try to incorporate the meal offerings into already planned children’s activities at the local YMCA and churches.
“It’s a great program,” she said. “Here in the county we do have a great need district-wide.”
Yadkin County Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Martin said, “I am grateful to Cindy Marion, director of school food services, and her staff for all they have done to ensure that students continue to receive meals throughout the summer. Ms. Marion has set up various summer feeding sites, and is working in partnership with some area churches and the YMCA in Yadkinville, to provide meals. In our great country, no child should have to go hungry. It is through efforts like the summer nutrition program that we are doing what we can to help feed the children of Yadkin County.”
State Superintendent June Atkinson said these programs are crucial for the hundreds of thousands of North Carolina students who rely on the federal school meals program during the school year. “Too many families across North Carolina are struggling, and we can’t have children going hungry in the summer when programs like this are available. Making families aware and informed of available sites for summer meals is vital to keeping children well-nourished, healthy and ready-to-learn.”
NCDPI School Nutrition Services Section Chief Lynn Harvey said that more than one-fourth, or 27 percent, of all students are food-insecure and experience hunger during the summer months.
“This is a statewide issue, which is why we are fortunate to have a strong partnership with the USDA that enables us to provide summer nutrition meal sites for children in all areas of our state,” said Harvey.
The Summer Nutrition Programs serve nutritious meals to children up to age 18 living in low-income areas (where 50 percent or more of the students qualify for no-cost or reduced price school meals) regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. The program may operate in schools, public housing centers, camps, parks, faith-based facilities, and other sites where students gather during the summer months. Meals are served to eligible children at no cost and registration is not required.
“Proper nutrition promotes optimal growth and development in children therefore playing an important role in improving education outcomes,” said Atkinson. “By supporting programs that provide balanced meals throughout the summer, we are helping to keep North Carolina’s children on the path to academic success.”
The Summer Nutrition Programs are administered by NCDPI using federal funds from USDA. Summer Nutrition Programs span nearly every county in North Carolina. Currently, 52 sponsors have been approved to offer summer meals at 1,092 sites with more sites being added daily. Citizens and organizations interested in more information about getting involved as a site provider or volunteering at a summer meals site, should contact Cynthia Ervin with NCDPI School Nutrition Services’ Summer Nutrition Programs. The USDA is an equal opportunity provider.
Those in Yadkin County interested in learning more may contact Marion at 336-679-2051. The following sites are open for student summer lunches in Yadkin County.
Monday through Friday 11 to 11:30 a.m. until Aug. 15 will be Jonesville Elementary, East Bend Elementary, West Yadkin Elementary, Yadkinville Elementary and Forbush Middle School.
Yadkinville United Methodist Church, every Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to noon through Aug. 4. Igelsia Bautista Hispana Bethel will serve lunch Monday and Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to noon July 6-27. All sites are closed on July 4.
“We are working with many other groups that are providing camps this summer, to help those children receive food. We hope to continue to find ways to reach out to our children here in Yadkin County,” Marion said.