Local school districts and community members are stepping up to provide free meals for students in need in response to Gov. Roy Cooper’s mandate that all school districts in the state close for the next two weeks.
More than 29 percent of children in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools receive free or reduced-price lunches, according to PORCH, a group that provides emergency food support to food-insecure people in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community. In order to prevent these students from going hungry, CHCCS has put together a team made up of district members, local churches and nonprofit organizations to provide free meals to children throughout the district.
Christine Cotton, founder and director of PORCH, has helped lead the community partners through this effort. She said the CHCCS Child Nutrition department is prepping meals with the help of PORCH volunteers at Northside Elementary School and McDougle Elementary School. She said the food is then picked up by CHCCS transportation and distributed to about 20 sites identified for at-risk students.
“It’s amazing, these folks all stepped up to help,” Cotton said. “I’m so impressed the district has committed to feeding these kids while they’re out.”
Cotton said although the program was initially targeted towards students who receive free and reduced lunches and breakfasts, volunteers are not checking who picks up the food, and any family in the district that needs a meal will receive one. She said the meals consist of breakfast, a hot lunch and a snack.
Orange County Schools is also providing meals to their students. Free lunch meals prepared by the OCS Child Nutrition Services Department are available at several pick-up and drop-off locations throughout the district. Breakfast will also be provided for as long as resources last.
Other local food groups are dedicated to helping out as well.
TABLE is a group that provides healthy emergency food aid to families in Orange County and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area. Executive Director Ashton Tippins said TABLE is going to continue to deliver bags filled with healthy, nonperishable meals to the 727 children they currently serve.
She said the organizations is working with the districts to figure out future plans.
The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle serves about 3,000 students every week through a backpack buddies program.
Laura Rice, communications and media manager for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, said the group is working with counties and local school districts to identify locations to distribute meals. She said they have initiated a process to prepare about 500 kid-friendly meals per day to distribute to families once distribution points are worked out.
“We don’t want to see any hungry children out there, we’re doing everything we can to get food into the hands of the people who need it,” she said.
Both groups said they are taking extra safety precautions to prevent further spread of coronavirus, including limiting the number of volunteers at each site and how many times people handle the food.
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