RELEASE: Statement by the Carolina Hunger Initiative in Support of School Nutrition

Contact: Tamara Baker,

School nutrition professionals inspire us with their perseverance and their commitment to serving healthy meals to students. 

The priority of Carolina Hunger Initiative and many of our partners is making sure that kids have the nutrition they need to thrive. Because so many kids depend on school for their nutrition, this can’t happen without school staffs that have the full resources and support they need. We commend the ongoing work of school nutrition teams — the essential core of this work — who assure our children have access to healthy meals throughout North Carolina’s public preK-12 schools.

CHALLENGES: Many school nutrition professionals have shared that because of supply chain disruptions, staffing challenges, and pandemic uncertainties, this year is even more difficult to manage than last year.

School nutrition professionals have been working non-stop since March 2020.

  • When schools closed because of COVID-19 and many of us began working from home, school nutrition professionals were ready on DAY ONE to hand out meals curbside, coordinate meals sent to homes on buses, and connect with community partners on other innovative solutions.
  • In the summer months when schools are traditionally closed, school nutrition professionals continued to serve meals, alongside many other partners from their schools and communities. In fact, in the summer of 2020, NC meal sponsors served 6 times the number of meals served in the previous summer! And almost a third of NC counties exceeded their previous record in the summer of 2021.

Community partners, families, and volunteers are also a critical part of this work, especially in times of emergency. Thanks to every person and organization who has stepped up in times of need to help feed children.

THE BOTTOM LINE: We encourage communities and parents to support school meals and appreciate the team that provides them. The meals fuel our kids with healthy nutrients required for students to learn.

For concerned families in one of the areas where schools are facing staffing challenges, there may be opportunities to volunteer or donate through local PTAs or through the schools. Be sure to check-in first: not all schools are accepting food or volunteers.

As always, in areas where school meal service is uninterrupted, we urge families to participate in the free meal programs available at school in order to help build community among students, practice healthy eating with USDA-approved meals, and support the financial health of these federally-reimbursed school nutrition programs. This school year, all meals continue to be FREE for families in most schools due to USDA emergency federal waivers.

There are huge benefits to serving more school meals:

  1. School meals bring more funds and jobs to the community. 
  2. All kids eating helps remove stigma for at-risk students.
  3. Eating school meals helps assure ALL students are better equipped to learn.

We applaud the ongoing work of state and local leaders to dedicate new funding toward the hiring and retention of school nutrition professionals. Carolina Hunger Initiative will continue to help provide education and context for why we should do everything possible to support these essential workers.

About the Carolina Hunger Initiative
The Carolina Hunger Initiative’s mission is to improve access to healthy meals year-round for North Carolinians. It is a project at the University of North Carolina working in collaboration with No Kid Hungry North Carolina, part of Share Our Strength’s national No Kid Hungry Campaign. CHI uses programming, applied research, and compelling communications to support policy, systems, and environmental changes to more readily connect people with the food they need. Learn more at