Food for Students Program Adapts to the Needs of Orange County Parents, Children

Chapel Hill-Carrboro School City School (CHCCS) employees: Sheryl Weaver (left) and Tremaine Coley (right) distribute lunches to children at a distribution center from the back of a city school bus located at the Airport Gardens Apartments, 859 Martin Luther King Blvd., in Chapel Hill. Students age 18 and younger may pick up lunches provided by the CHCCS Food for Students Summer program. Photo credit: Michelle Cassell.

SCHOOLS

by Michelle Cassell

Correspondent

The Local Reporter

Food for Students, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) program in partnership with the Town of Chapel Hill, and the Keep Kids Fed Act will help keep kids nourished throughout the summer thanks in large part to the Keep the Kids Fed Act which was signed into law by President Biden on June 23.

The legislation also waived the requirement for students to eat their meals on-site, and families can now pick up meals and take them home if they wish.

The U.S. Congress originally authorized waivers at the height of the pandemic to give local programs the flexibility to feed as many students as possible.  The waivers were due to expire on June 30, putting summer meal programs at risk when students often face the most significant food insecurity. The recently passed legislation extends these waivers.

Loree Perry, Assistant Director of Child Nutrition at Chartwells K12 — a contract food service company that runs the food service at CHCCS — explained to The Local Reporter what this legislation change means to the local community.

“The summer feeding portion of the Keep the Kids Fed Act lets us offer meals to kids, and they do not have to stay or be present,” Perry said.

School Nutrition Association President Beth Wallace said the Keep Kids Fed Act provides “critical aid to school nutrition professionals confronting a continued onslaught of challenges to ensure students are nourished and ready to learn,” in a press release.

“Supply chain breakdowns, skyrocketing costs, and severe labor shortages, expected to persist well into next school year, have prevented school meal programs from returning to normal operations,” Wallace added.

Perry said she often sees adults visit a site to pick up meals for kids who cannot leave the house.

“We can now offer them meals and return them to their home to eat lunch,” she said. “It makes the process of getting meals into the community easier.”

The local program, Food for Summer, launched under a new name, “Food for Students,” last month. The program was first conceived by Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger in 2016. To date, it has provided 192,000 summer meals to children in camps and meal sites throughout Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

“We think it is tremendously important to ensure all of our children have access to nutritious meals,” said Andy Jenks, Chief Communications Officer for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. “We are proud to coordinate with the town to take meals and enrichment activities on the road to a variety of community locations…the success of this kind of effort depends a lot on our staff as well as community volunteers.”

“I’m so grateful to the CHCCS Child Nutrition team and our community for supporting our youth,” Hemminger told The Local Reporter.  “Our amazing volunteers have always been essential to Food For Students’ success, and we want people to know that we can use their help again this summer.”

The program offers enrichment activities through Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation and the Chapel Hill Public Library. Chapel Hill Police K9 unit and firefighters will visit and have lunch with the kids, and free books from Book Harvest will be distributed on Wednesdays. Other fun activities include “fun buckets” filled with bubbles and jump ropes.

There are 13 meal sites this summer — 12 in various neighborhoods or communities.  The healthy meals are available Monday – Thursday.

For the complete schedule, visit:  https://www.chccs.org/Page/10805.

The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is the national organization of school nutrition professionals committed to advancing the quality of school meal programs through education and advocacy.

For further info, visit: https://schoolnutrition.org/.

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