School may be out for the summer, but hunger does not take a vacation.
That’s why the Pitt County Schools Child Nutrition Department will operate the Summer Meals Program from June 13-Aug. 9 at 18 locations, said Gretchen Wilson, director of Child Nutrition.
The Summer Food Service Program, also known as the Summer Meals Program, was established by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to ensure that children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. When school is out, the program provides free meals to kids and teens in low-income areas, according to the USDA website.
Summer can be the hungriest time of year for many children from low-income families. When schools close, students no longer get school meals and families struggle to put food on the table. This hunger can have a long-term effect on a child’s health, ability to learn and general well-being, according to No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit organization that works to end child hunger.
There are 23,691 students enrolled in PCS and 13,080 of those students are approved for free or reduced-cost lunches, Wilson said. That means more than half of the children enrolled in Pitt County Schools fall into that category.
But the Summer Meals Program isn’t limited to these youth. Any child can get a meal or snack at any site, Wilson said. No paperwork is required for participating.
“We can feed anyone from 1-year-old up to 18,” Wilson said. “t’s a different funding from what is used during the school year. Reimbursement is through USDA and is separate from the school lunch and breakfast program. It’s a different pocket of money with different rules.”
The sites provide hot meals unless the meals are designed for children who may be going on field trips, Wilson said. Each site will provide two meals or one meal and a snack.
Meals and snacks for children and teens are free and are served in their entirety (no a la cart available). Items will be available a la cart to adults for a small cost, Wilson said.
Some PCS employees who work in school cafeterias during the academic year also work for this program, Wilson said.
Wilson said that the program could use more community volunteers to serve at the sites. Duties might include wiping down tables or keeping track of meals that are served. Anyone interested in volunteering can email Valerie Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers must clear a background check and be able to volunteer on school property.
Sites in Pitt County include the following elementary schools: Ayden, Bethel, Creekside, Eastern, H.B. Sugg, Lakeforest, Northwest, Pactolus, Sadie Saulter, South Greenville, and W.H. Robinson.
Other schools include South Central High School and Wintergreen Intermediate.
Two schools, Wellcome and Grifton, were not able to be used as sites this year because of structural work being done on their kitchens, Wilson said.
The Greenville Cultural Recreation Centers at 1710 W. Third St. and 400 Mumford Road, the Farmville Public Library, Greater Works Church and the Intergenerational Center also are meal sites.
Participants must be at a site before the posted closing time and food will be served until it runs out, Wilson said. The sites will make adjustments as needed in the amount of food prepared throughout the summer.
For a complete list of sites, their addresses and their hours of operation, text FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877 or go to http://nokidhungrync.org/find-food-assistance-near-you/. This information also is available on the Pitt County Food Finder app developed by the Pitt County Farm & Food Council. The app can be downloaded in the App Store or on Google Play. The same resources are also available online at foodforpitt.org.
Meal times may vary from site to site; actual times will be posted at each site, according to PCS.
More sites may be added or sites may stop before the dates listed so people should consult these resources for the most current information, Wilson said.
Menus are available at https://www.pitt.k12.nc.us/Page/86.
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern N.C. also is a sponsor of the Summer Meals Program and will run two sites, according to Jennifer Caslin, marketing and project manager for the food bank. The sites are at the Kids Educational Empowerment Program, 2112 N.C. 42 East, Wilson, and Mt. Moriah Community Church, 4329 Anderson Ave., Farmville.
Any school or organization that would like to be a designated site next year should contact Gretchen Wilson at email@example.com.
Karen Eckert can be reached at 252-329-9565 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.