RELEASE: Carolina Hunger Initiative, Blue Cross NC Award School Nutrition Programs with Funds for “Big Ideas”

Craven County Schools and Wilson County Schools will focus on increasing access to school meals in high schools

Contact — Andrew Harrell,, (984) 528-3557

Wednesday, December 7, 2022 — CHAPEL HILL, NC

The Carolina Hunger Initiative, based at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, is awarding grants to the nutrition teams in Craven County Schools and Wilson County Schools to kickstart new ideas that increase participation in school meal programs. The grant funding is supported by a gift from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

About 60% of North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students qualify for free and reduced-price school meals. Improving access to school meals has been linked to better academic outcomes and social-emotional behaviors. School meals also are healthier than most meals brought from home.

“School nutrition programs are the most effective tool we have in the fight against child hunger,” said Lou Anne Crumpler, director of the Carolina Hunger Initiative. “These creative ways of removing barriers between students and school meals will go a long way toward creating healthier communities. I’m grateful to Blue Cross NC for continuing to support this innovative work.”

The Craven and Wilson school systems will each receive $25,000 to help implement their ideas to increase access to school meals. Both plans also help address staffing challenges that many school districts across the nation are facing.

Craven County Schools will pilot special vending machines in two high schools, serving reimbursable meals and healthy snacks that meet USDA nutrition guidelines. Having this extra point of service will reduce long lines in the cafeteria during lunchtime and provide a chance for students to get another meal or snack after school before athletic practices or extracurriculars.

Wilson County Schools will revamp its cafeterias and menus in three high schools to provide more attractive options for students. Freshly prepared “grab-and-go” meals will be an easy choice for students who can arrive late or leave early to attend off-campus courses, have time restrictions on going through the line and eating, or are tempted by less-healthy nearby fast-food restaurants. New serving lines will also give space for more fresh fruit and vegetable options.

The “Big Ideas” grant application asked school districts for outside-the-box proposals to increase participation in high-need Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools, which use a policy to maximize federal reimbursements for school meals in areas with the highest need. High participation is essential to making the most of the CEP program. Raising participation in school meal programs also means reaching more students with the benefits of access to healthy food, and stronger programs with more funds for staffing, high-quality food items, and scratch cooking.

Since 2019, Blue Cross NC has partnered with Carolina Hunger Initiative to support grants to more than 50 schools and community organizations that provide healthy meals to kids in need statewide. These grants have been used to start innovative new programs, increase staffing capacity so meal sites can stay open for more days, and fund new equipment to help deliver meals directly to children participating in remote learning during COVID-19 school closures.

About the Carolina Hunger Initiative

The Carolina Hunger Initiative is a project at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Our mission is to increase access to healthy food year-round for North Carolinians. We use programming, applied research, and compelling communications to support policy, systems, and environmental changes that connect people with the food they need. Learn more at