Do you work at, have children that attend, or know of a summer camp for youth in Sampson County? If so, this article is for you! According to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 29percent of residents in Sampson County are at the poverty level. With about 25 percent of Sampson County residents being under the age of 18, it is no surprise that our children are at risk for being hungry, especially during the summer when free and reduced school meals are not available. Last year, it was estimated that 8,693 children and teens were in need of summer meals. Luckily, there have been efforts to reach these children and teens to help provide them with greater nutrition and a full belly.
I attended a forum with UNC’s SNAP-Ed team a few weeks ago that opened my eyes to the need and the resources that were available to our county. According to the No Kid Hungry NC initiative and UNC’s Supplemental Nutrition Education Program (SNAP-Ed), 75 percent of students during the 2014-2015 school year were eligible for free and reduced meals. This is a large proportion of children in our county who may also go unfed during the summer months. Tamara Baker of the Child Nutrition Project with SNAP-Ed UNC explained to my colleague, Lethia Lee, and me about the funds that are available for our counties youth. There are two federally-funded summer meals programs that reimburse providers for serving healthy meals to low-income students during the summer. We do currently have some sponsors for these programs such as Clinton City Schools, Sampson County Schools, and two churches, Andrew Chapel Church and Keathern Chapel Church. With 25 sites, some open enrollment and some closed, we still were only able to reach 6percent of our youth. This means that 545 children and teens were fed last summer, but 8,148 were NOT served each day.
My reasoning for writing this article is to inform Sampson County residents of the opportunities available for our youth. As many of you know, I am new to this county; therefore, I am not fully aware of all of the summer activities that our youth attend. If there is a camp that you know of that will have children for even half of the day, they are eligible for free meals! This is for breakfast AND lunch. If you will be having children from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., you are eligible to serve them breakfast AND serve them lunch so that they are consuming two nutritious, healthy meals. Last year our county accessed $105,580 for lunch only. This means that there were $1,578,471 funds available for lunch alone that we didn’t even use. If there is money available to our county, we need to use it!
If you would like to be a nutrition site for our youth this summer, there is a sponsor available for you. For more information, please contact me at the Sampson County office. We need to take advantage of these funds and help feed our children and teens this summer.
Sydney Johnson is an Area Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. She can be reached by calling the Sampson County Center at 910-592-7161.