ARTICLES: School Meal Debt and the “Hunger Cliff”

Rising school meal debt has been a major issue of the 2022-23 school year. The end of February 2023 brings an additional challenge: the end of emergency boosts to SNAP/FNS allotments, which have been a crucial resource for fighting hunger. ABC11 has covered both of these issues recently:

“School districts face rising student meal debt, as additional SNAP benefits expire” — ABC11

“At the end of the school year, that meal debt that’s been uncollected goes back to the district and there could be things like a teaching assistant position that can’t be funded because of this meal debt,” said Andrew Harrell, Communications and Program Manager for Carolina Hunger Initiative. He said roughly one in six children face food insecurity in the state, a figure that is above the national average.

While the General Assembly is covering reduced price co-pay this school year, Harrell, along with other advocates, are urging lawmakers to include funding for free meals for students in the upcoming budget.

“Children are being held back by hunger right now. And we know if they had access to no-cost meals in schools, they would be doing better in school. Their performance grades would get better, their behavior would get better, their attendance, their health, they’d be doing better,” said Morgan Wittman Gramann, Executive Director of North Carolina Alliance for Health.

“Food pantries brace for ‘big increase’ with SNAP benefits ending” — ABC11

Earlier this week, the federally funded SNAP program came to an end and food pantries are bracing for a spike in demand.

“I think we’re going to see a big increase in food insecurities,” said Food Bank Spokesperson Jessica Whichard.

“I think losing that $95 dollars or at least at $95 dollars for families, that goes a long way at the grocery stores and I think we’ll probably see folks more in need of the hunger relief system,” said Whichard.