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Initiative seeks to stop summer hunger

KathyKolasa

Kathy Kolasa

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Kathy Kolasa

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Q: Please help spread the word about the 2018 Stop Summer Hunger Initiative. — B.S., Greenville

A: Hannah Conley, a second-year Brody medical student, attended a kickoff event May 30 for the 2018 Stop Summer Hunger Initiative in eastern North Carolina, led by the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Here is her reflection.

The annual Stop Summer Hunger drive works to provide additional food to children and their families throughout the summer because many children rely on reduced-price or free meals during the school year to receive adequate nutrition. When school is on summer break, these children are often left without that stable resource.

There are 37,480 people in Pitt County who are food insecure or lack consistent access to food. There are 8,850 children under 18 who are food insecure. Furthermore, almost 6 in 10 children in Pitt County come from homes with limited resources, which qualifies them to get free or reduced-price lunch at school. These numbers tell us that summer does not mean a worry-free vacation for more than half of our children in Pitt County. It means they may not know where they will get the two healthy meals a day they enjoy when school is in session.

I find these numbers heartbreaking and difficult to comprehend. They almost make it seem like the issue at hand is too large, and there is nothing one person can do. However, this is just not true. Rather, these data emphasize the importance of initiatives like Stop Summer Hunger because it is not a child’s job to worry about his or her next meal.

During the kickoff event, Pastor Rodney Coles from the Churches Outreach Network reminded us that a child should only be concerned with playing in the sand and learning from those people around him or her. He challenged us all to be involved.

“You only live when you’re giving,” he said. “We have to show compassion and support the food bank.”

Joyce Jones of LIFE Empowerment Center/STRIVE NC also spoke at the event. She said hunger in a child leads to mental concerns and medical problems later in life. She also shared that households with children are more likely to be food insecure than those without children.

Stop Summer Hunger is on the front line to help combat hunger in the children of our community. In other parts of the country, food trucks or mobile food pantries have been used to provide free meals to kids during the summer. The trucks travel to neighborhoods where the need is greatest and provide healthy meals. I think a resource like this one could greatly benefit eastern North Carolina residents since many live in rural areas, and the truck could go to them. It would allow parents not to worry about traveling to get their child food and would save them even more time and money.

But for this summer, any child who can eat table food and is younger than 19 can attend the Summer Meals Programs offered through Pitt County Schools Child Nutrition Department. Sites that opened June 11 include Ayden Elementary, Eastern Elementary, H.B. Sugg, Lakeforest, Sadie Saulter, South Greenville, W.H. Robinson, Wellcome Middle and Wintergreen Primary. Sites scheduled to open Monday include Bethel School, Grifton School and South Central High School. Programs at Greenville Cultural and Recreation Center and Greenville Cultural and Recreation Center in Meadowbrook will open Monday and at the Intergenerational Center on June 25. Most will close Aug. 10. Service hours are from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Some sites serve breakfast from 7:30-8:45 a.m. For more information, visit http://nokidhungrync.org or call 830-4226.

The Stop Summer Hunger campaign runs through the end of July and has a goal of raising enough donations for 3.4 million meals. Visit www.stopsummerhunger.org for more information.You can find volunteer opportunities at http://www.foodbankcenc.org.

Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an Affiliate Professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at kolasaka@ecu.edu.

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