The Clinton City Schools’ summer feeding program served more than 30,000 meals last summer to local youth forced to find adequate food during the two-month break.
With only two weeks left until summer vacation begins, school administrators have announced the system’s plans to once again offer the program, which has been done for more than 20 years with funding that is provided through the state.
The program is a way for children to receive two free meals a day, Monday-Thursday, during the summer break. Last year, nearly 1,000 students were fed through the program, and 5,000 more meals were served than the summer before.
“The Summer Feeding program gives students who may not have a meal something nutritional to eat during the summer,” Jeff Swartz, child nutrition director, said.
This year’s summer program will begin June 18 and end Aug. 16. Meals are served between 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction School Nutrition Services staff, along with a number of statewide partners, announced the availability of the summer nutrition programs across the state. This service is being done in an effort to help address the critical need of feeding children throughout the summer vacation.
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. The free summer feeding program is just an additional way Clinton City Schools’ staff has worked to provide free meals to students. All students receive free meals during the school year, and during the school year, students are assisted through Backpack Buddies, a non-profit organization that sends meals home with qualifying children over the weekend.
Sunset Avenue School serves as the location for local meals to be served and is one of the 3,000 summer nutrition meal sites that helps bridge the school meals gap until the beginning of the new school year. Anyone who is under 18 years of age is eligible for the program. Parents can eat along with their children for a minimal fee.
“Our program is for any student in either school system or from anywhere,” Swartz said. “We don’t check any identification or ask any questions about income.”
The programs serves nutritious meals 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.
For those who plan to bring larger groups or need meals for larger groups, Swartz said he asks for someone to call and make arrangement prior to the day or days the meals are needed.
“Not only does this help our children, but it gives our employees some employment over the summer and serves our community,” Swartz added. “We want to try to eliminate any hardships our parents may face in the summer. If a child is getting a free or reduced lunch during the school year, what is a parent supposed to do during the summer when that child is home for three meals a day, seven days a week.”
Transportation to the site is not provided and delivery may be arranged for those sites that are pre-approved by the state.
“We just want to make sure we help the children in need,” Swartz said.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.