Meals on the Move: Shipping Meals Directly to Homes

Mailed or Shipped Meals

An important lesson from the pandemic is the need to be innovative and flexible. Mailing multiple meals per package to homes is an outside-the-box idea born out of the need to explore multiple ways to reach families safely with consistent meals.

USDA PILOT: During the summer of 2020, the Carolina Hunger Initiative partnered with 20 NC public school districts to bring a program to North Carolina called Emergency Meals-to-You (eMTY). A USDA pilot administered by Baylor University in Texas, the program provided weekday breakfasts and lunches at no costs to rural students who had been receiving those meals during the school year through the National School Lunch Program at a free or reduced-price. eMTY mailed almost 1.6 million meals to NC children, including 10 breakfasts and 10 lunches every two weeks, directly to each eligible student’s home while the state was operating under the COVID-19 emergency. Almost 13,000 children from 20 of North Carolina’s 82USDA-designated rural counties in school districts across North Carolina received these shelf-stable meals during the summer of 2020.

Though the future of the eMTY program has not been determined by Congress or USDA, it has provided proof of concept. Mailing shelf-stable meals is an option during the emergency designation from the pandemic, while congregate feeding regulations have been waived by USDA.

AMAZON: The online retailer Amazon has developed partnerships in several states that provide creative solutions to food access for families, including shipping boxes of food to homes. CHI has not learned of any partnerships to address hunger with Amazon yet in North Carolina. Learn more at

The Benefits

  • Food packages that are mailed and delivered to homes provide a sustainable means to provide meals.
  • The strategy works best in rural areas where access to nutrition options is limited.
  • Using shelf stable items, the menu can still meet the nutritional requirements of reimbursable meals as part of the federal child nutrition programs while requiring no refrigeration.
  • The meal sponsor selects the vendors for the food items and can choose whether to box and ship the packages using internal staff or contract with a third party.

See It In Action

Learn more about the USDA pilot program led by the Carolina Hunger Initiative to ship meals directly to NC homes in the summer months of 2020.

Checklist: How to Get Started

  • Confirm with NCDPI that USDA regulations allow implementing a process you may have in mind for shipping reimbursable meals to children.
  • Identify vendors, optimal packaging materials, and shipping methods.
  • Determine – in coordination with the district student services team – which areas or communities are not able consistently to access nutrition options for their children and would benefit from shipped meals.
  • Prepare informational materials for key stakeholders and families.
  • Confirm if the program is feasible; seek funding assistance if needed to get underway.

How Can Carolina Hunger Initiative Help?

Let’s get started! Contact us at