Reposted from John Bailey of the Hickory Daily Record
NEWTON – For the first time, Newton-Conover City Schools is participating in a summer feeding program, and it’s open to all children age 18 and younger.
“It’s about meeting a need in the community and bridging a gap in feeding children,” Newton-Conover City Schools (NCCS) Director of Child Nutrition Tara Kelley said.
The district is serving approximately 100 students a day at North Newton Elementary, and Kelley expects it to get busier through July when North Newton hosts a summer reading camp.
The program started June 12 and ends Aug. 18. Breakfast is served daily from 7:45-8:45 a.m. and lunch service is 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“We decided on the North Newton location for a couple of reasons,” Kelley said. “First the location is somewhat central to our district – the accessibility of the cafeteria in relation to the entrance of the school is close to one another.”
She noted another reason was the high free/reduce meal percentage demographics (80.5 percent) at North Newton.
“Lastly, Kid Connection summer camp and summer reading program was already there,” Kelley said. “We knew that we wanted to serve these programs so it just made sense to have North Newton as an open site for summer feeding as well.”
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction School Nutrition Services administers the state’s Summer Nutrition Programs using federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The program addresses the risk of food insecurity during the summer months for youth when they no longer have access to the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, according to the Department of Public Instruction’s website, dpi.state.nc.us.
North Carolina Summer Nutrition Programs serve meals at no cost for children and teens at almost 3,000 locations across the state.
Parents also can eat with their children if they want at affordable prices – $2.25 for breakfast and $3.75 for lunch.
Kelley said in recent years, the federal government has made it easier for school districts to participate in this program, which is another reason NCCS felt it was a good time to get involved.
Nancy Borowsky, a school nutrition supervisor for the district, said she sees the need for this kind of program throughout the year with families reaching out to them for help while students are still taking classes.
“They’ll say we’re struggling right now is there anything you can do,” Borowsky said.
When students are in school, the price of their meals is based on household income.
“There isn’t much we can do with that, but the summer feeding program, it’s free to everybody eighteen and under,” Borowsky said. “We do know there are students who during the school year, the only two meals they get are the two we feed them every day.”
She admits it was a lot of work to the get the program implemented in the district but worth all the effort.
The district had to go through a new application program to qualify for its first summer feeding program.
“It took us about two weeks to complete with tons and tons of paperwork, lots of questions, lots of procedural things,” Kelley said.
Erin Lioret is a foster parent in Newton and has four children taking advantage of the program.
“Most of my children as we pass different soup kitchens in both Hickory and Newton, point out that they’ve been there before,” Lioret said. “It’s comforting to know that even the kids who are hungry have somewhere to go.”
It’s a good way to ensure a healthy meal during a busy day, she said.
“Even though we get up and rush through getting ready and get out the door, and they do grab a Pop-Tart for a snack, I know they’re going to get a nutritious meal once they get here,” Lioret said.
The program offers a choice of hot or cold meals daily and also makes a number of entrees from scratch every day, including spaghetti, soft shell tacos, chicken enchiladas and country chicken and biscuits.
Kelley stressed any child can take advantage of this program at North Newton. Children do not have to be a student or resident of Newton-Conover.
For more information about the program, call NCCS Child Nutrition office at 828-464-3191 or visit newton-conover.org.
North Newton Elementary is located at 221 West 26th St., in Newton.