Students across the county have been emerged in End of Grade testing over the last week, which is a sign that summer vacation is just around the corner.
Officials with Clinton City Schools have announced the system’s plans to offer a Summer Feeding 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.
“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 13 and end Aug. 11.
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. According to Swartz, Clinton City Schools provided nearly 20,000 meals to more than 350 students last summer, through the Summer Feeding program.
In an effort to help address the critical need of feeding children throughout the three-month summer vacation, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction School Nutrition Services staff, along with a number of statewide partners, have announced the availability of the Summer Nutrition Programs for students across the state.
“Too many families across North Carolina are struggling, and we can’t have children going hungry in the summer when programs like this are available,” State Superintendent June Atkinson said. “Making families aware and informed of available sites for summer meals is vital to keeping children well-nourished, healthy and ready-to-learn.”
Locally, Sunset Avenue School 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. Meals, Swartz said, are available Monday-Thursday, 7:30-8:30 a.m. for breakfast and 11 a.m -12:30 p.m. for lunch. 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 deliver may be arranged for those sites that are pre-approved by the state.
During the school year, students are assisted through Backpack Buddies, a non-profit organization that sends meals home with qualifying children over the weekend.
“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.