For the second year of Carolina Hunger Initiative’s #SummerMeals4NCKids project, we expanded our work to include student interns embedded in school nutrition programs across the state. These interns worked on the Summer Nutrition Program, which provides healthy meals at no cost to kids via thousands of sites in North Carolina. Take a look at the stories and lessons they brought back from their experience.
When I learned I was being placed in Carteret County for the SummerMeals4NCKids internship program, I was excited to spend my weekends at the beach and explore everything the county had to offer. But along with the beautiful waves and sandy shores, I realized living in a rural community carries a unique set of challenges, which most people living in my hometown are often privileged enough to not experience. Growing up in Raleigh almost my whole life, I have always been fortunate enough to have fresh and nutritious foods readily available. But in the most rural parts of Carteret County, children have limited access to healthy foods. Every aspect of a child’s life is impacted by a lack of access to healthy foods, and it is a vital part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“Living in a rural community carries a unique set of challenges… Every aspect of a child’s life is impacted by a lack of access to healthy foods.”
It was amazing to see the child nutrition team of Carteret County Public Schools’ devotion to providing kids with nutritious meals, giving them access to healthy fruits and vegetables, and helping foster productive students throughout the day. Before the start of this summer, I held the perception that child nutrition programs only worked to feed students lunch during the school year. But as I began my internship with the CCPS Child Nutrition Team, it became clear that its work spreads far beyond that. The Summer Feed Service Program (SFSP), which was in full swing during my time in Carteret, supports numerous sites across the county, feeding up to 140 healthy, no-cost meals to students every day. The CCPS Child Nutrition Team was also heavily involved in designing recipes that both follow the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) guidelines and introduce students to unfamiliar ingredients and new cuisines. Other responsibilities I was tasked with included organizing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points guidelines and creating and distributing literature informing students about the updates to a post-pandemic NSLP.
“Learning how public health functions within the local community was an irreplaceable experience and was a valuable introduction for any future public health professional passionate about child nutrition, food access, or food equity.”
The SummerMeals4NCKids internship program gave me a unique opportunity to form lasting connections with the people working to promote child nutritional health in our communities. I also had the chance to educate myself on the infrastructure supporting student access to more nutritious foods while in school. Learning how public health functions within the local community was an irreplaceable experience and was a valuable introduction for any future public health professional passionate about child nutrition, food access, or food equity.
I want to thank Dr. Jessica Soldavini and the rest of the Carolina Hunger Initiative team as well as Melissa Albright, Angie Zachary, and everyone at CCPS Child Nutrition who gave me countless unforgettable memories.
Aditya Shetye is completing his Bachelor of Science in Public Health in Nutrition at UNC-Chapel Hill.