Summer feeding program setting records this summer | Schools
SALISBURY - When school is out for the summer, kids love it, but it may also be an unwelcome vacation from healthy eating. A federal program aims to bridge that gap for needy families, and in our area the need is greater now than in the last few years.
It's a USDA program sponsored by the Rowan Salisbury School system. Kids in need get two healthy meals every day through the summer, and parents say they don't know what they would do without it.
The meals are prepared at Carson High School, then packed on trucks for their journey to hungry children.
"They call it the meat wagon, ha ha, just to see the kids come to the truck and appreciate the good meals that we give them," said Donnie Williams, while unloading bag after bag of lunches for eager children waiting in a housing complex parking lot.
Twice a day the kids at Brookview and other sites in Rowan County look forward to seeing people like Donnie Williams bring them healthy food.
"I thought it was awesome that people go around and feed the kids for the summer because there's a lot kids that don't get to eat, their parents can't afford to feed the children, said Angela Lomax, who has four children in the program. "There's a big, big need for it, a lot of kids need to have a good meal to eat every day."
Organizers say this summer the need has increased greatly
"The first week we were feeding 800 more kids a week than we were last year, so there's just a need out here," said Lisa Altmann of the Rowan Salisbury School System.
The need is so great that it will expanded next year. Organizers here are adding more sites to try and help more children.
"Next year we hope to grow even more," Altmann added. Putting sites in other parts of the county, and having more sites to prepare the food would also help reach more children, according to Altmann.
For a site to be eligible for meals, it must be located in a part of the county where the schools in the area are at least 50% free and reduced. The majority of Rowan County qualifies for these meals because the county-wide free and reduced rate has risen to 62.6%, according to Meredith Honeycutt with Child Nutrition Services.
It's a way to make sure that even when the school cafeteria is closed it doesn't mean needy children will be hungry.
"At least we know when they go home they have ate something that day," Lopez added.
Meals became available on Monday, July 18th and the program will end on Wednesday, August 15th with no service on Wednesday, July 4th, so in total, there are 43 days that we offer meals to these children.
To receive a meal, a child needs to be at least 3 years old and no older than 18 years old. Children aren't allowed a second meal, we don’t feed adults and no meals are available for purchase.
Last summer, the program fed a total of 46,687 meals to students.The year to year numbers show the dramatic increase. In June, 2011, 11,641 meals were served, but in June of this year the number jumped to 16,883, an increase of 5,242.