A $50,000 grant awarded through the national No Kid Hungry program to Lenoir County Public Schools will help stock emergency food pantries at middle and high schools and provide meals to carry at-risk students through their weekends.

While buying groceries for distribution as early as March, the grant will also serve as seed money for a more expansive effort to bring the same food assistance and nutrition education to older students that the district’s elementary schools now provide, according to LCPS Child Nutrition Director Danelle Smith, whose department won the grant.

“We wanted to do something for middle schools and high schools because there are a lot of programs that we’ve been doing for elementary schools,” Smith said. “We need more resources for our older students.”

A task force of Child Nutrition managers and school counselors will help reconfigure the “backpack buddies” weekend meal program active in elementary schools for students in need at Kinston, North Lenoir and South Lenoir high schools; Woodington, E.B. Frink and Rochelle middle schools; and middle school students at Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School.

No Kid Hungry — a campaign of Share Our Strength, a nonprofit working to solve problems of hunger and poverty — is taking a special interest in LCPS’s emergency food pantry project, one of three in the country it funded this year as a pilot project.

Weekend meals and food pantries, as Smith and her staff envision it, are just the beginning. To enrich the program, she anticipates creating “a bridge” between LCPS families and the Lenoir County Farmer’s Market — a source of locally grown produce — and to sustain the program, she hopes to facilitate donations.

“The money only goes so far,” she said. “By reaching out to businesses and the community we can do food drives the beginning of next school year to keep it going. We don’t want to just spend $50,000 and be done with it. We don’t want that to happen.”

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