The School Nutrition Pivot “By the Numbers”

Recordings of all the incredible speakers, panels, and sessions from the 2021 NC Child Hunger Leaders Conference will be available soon. We’re sharing this clip ahead of time: Dr. Lynn Harvey, Director of School Nutrition and District Operations at the NC Department of Public Instruction, gives a “by the numbers” look at how school nutrition programs have pivoted to adapt to the pandemic during the past year.


Let’s start with the number 9 as in March 9… the date Department of Public Instruction submitted its first waiver to the USDA to allow for non-congregate meals to be available to children;


Or the number 14… the date on which our Governor issued an Executive Order that closed schools to students as a means of coordinating a public health response to COVID-19;


Or 48… the number of hours it took for School Nutrition Directors to pivot from providing  meals for students at school… to providing them as grab-and-go or curbside pickup… or transporting them  to students by yellow school buses… or making them available in meal bundles;


Or… 60…as in 60 percent of the students enrolled in NC’s public schools, who at the time of school closure due to the pandemic, were dependent upon meals every day at school for their primary source food and nutrition;


115 – the number of School Food Authorities… that pivoted… yes, they literally did an “about face” to transition from the National School Lunch Program to the Summer Food Service program… in order to provide meals to students under the new normal that required social distancing, face coverings and hand sanitizers;


21,000 – the number of school buses that were converted to food trucks in order to deliver meals to children during the height of the pandemic;


38 – the number of Community Organizations that stepped up to become sponsors in the Summer Nutrition Program to support school districts and charter schools in providing meals to children in their communities…


And let’s not forget 3,223… the number of meal sites…


And of course… who can forget… the numbers 877-877 – the number to which parents could text to find locations for free meals for their children in the communities

½ million

½ million – the average number of meals served to children daily during the first 90 days of school closure;


68 – the number of hours over the past year spent in COVID-19 Wednesday Webinars… to learn about new and evolving Federal Regulations, best practices and other pandemic success strategies;


74 – the number of Federal waivers requested/received from the USDA, since last March, to allow us to successfully pivot to provide meals to students using a variety of innovative delivery status; we are indebted to the USDA for their unprecedented waiver authority;


3 – the number of guiding principles that have been our beacon during this pandemic… those include providing meals for many food-insecure children as possible… doing so as safely as  possible and in a manner that supports program sustainability and integrity;

75 Million

75 Million… as in $75 Million dollars appropriated by the NC General Assembly to support the sustainability of the School Nutrition Programs during the pandemic;


52… the number of School Nutrition Programs that have subsequently been audited to document the allowable use of those funds… all in the name of program integrity;


940,000… the number of economically disadvantaged students in our state who are eligible to receive Pandemic-Emergency Food Assistance Benefits or P-EBT;


1,050 – the number of conference attendees who are coming together for the Child Hunger Leader’s Conference to take action to address and hopefully make huge strides to eliminate Child Hunger in our state;


And perhaps the most important number – the number 1 – as in the power of one voice… your voice… advocating for children who cannot advocate for themselves;


117… as in the 117th Congress where it is very likely the Child Nutrition Programs will undergo Reauthorization this year. It’s been over 10 years since these programs were reauthorized… and this may be our year.  So…let’s end with this number and a commitment to help our decision-makers recognize the importance of making universal free meals… or meals at no cost to children… available to all students as part of their instructional day as a means of eliminating child hunger while nourishing children to achieve their best in school.

130 million

Dr. Harvey added another number on day 2 of the conference during the “Future of School Nutrition Policy” session: more than 130 million meals provided collectively statewide by the school nutrition community since schools first closed for the COVID-19 emergency in mid-March 2020.