Tamara Cox Baker
Communications/Project Director, No Kid Hungry North Carolina
The scope is daunting — 1 in 6 U.S. kids face hunger.
In North Carolina, a state of agricultural abundance, hunger is too real. Almost 60 percent of our 1.5 million K-12 public school students are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Counting younger siblings, almost 1 million North Carolina children likely need better access to healthy meals.
Did you know our tax dollars have already paid for programs to keep all these kids well-fed? Federally funded child nutrition programs (school lunch and breakfast, and afterschool and summer meals) can provide three healthy meals and snacks every day. The dollars flow from Congress, to the USDA, to state agencies, to schools and other organizations that provide nutrition to kids.
Sadly, the programs are greatly under-accessed, but these are fixable problems.
Be an advocate
Talk with educators about making school breakfast more accessible. Serve it to all students after the school day starts, and move it out of the cafeteria and into the classroom.
Summer meals help fill the gap when school ends. Spread the word that anyone can find free summer meals for children by texting “FOOD” to 877-877. Ask your school district to consider serving free afterschool meals.
Have your child eat school meals
Research shows that lunch from home usually is LESS healthy than school lunch. When your child eats school meals, it helps remove the stigma from others who may get their only meals from school.
Worried that the meal isn’t healthy? Federal dietary requirements radically changed recently to make school foods healthier (i.e., whole grains, lower salt, less unhealthy fat).
We know food is essential, so why do we seem to value desks for students more than meals?
Participation in federal child nutrition programs is associated with lower levels of food insecurity, better dietary quality, and higher academic performance. More nourishment also means improved health, fewer disciplinary problems problems, reduced obesity rates, more graduations, and brighter futures for your child and the one in the next desk. More meals also create jobs and other economic gains in our communities.
Federal child nutrition programs support life-changing opportunities. Support the nutrition programs offered at your child’s school and in your community.
Tamara Cox Baker, Communications/Project Director, No Kid Hungry North Carolina, [email protected]