On Thursday, March 9, 2023, the School Meals for All NC coalition held a Day of Action to educate legislators about the importance of access to healthy school meals. Here is some of the media coverage:
“Right now, children in North Carolina are held back by hunger,” says Morgan Wittman Gramann, executive director of the North Carolina Alliance for Health. “One in six children in North Carolina goes hungry every day. We know that when students have access to healthy meals at school they are more likely to succeed academically, less likely to be sick, and there are fewer suspensions. When all students have what they need, everybody benefits, inside the classroom and out.”
Chitalo and Weant are lobbying lawmakers at the Capitol by urging them to pass a bill this legislative session providing free meals for all students statewide. They’ve even placed paper placemats at tables in the NC General Assembly cafeteria. They believe funding this program reduces poor health outcomes.
“It’s a costly program, but the cost of bad health. The cost of kids dropping out of school because of food. The impact of parents having stress because they can’t afford to buy lunches…” Chitalo said.
It’s something Weant said could be prevented if lawmakers prioritize free universal school meals.
As an adult, I recognize that there is no shame in being poor. I’m grateful for my upbringing and the example my mom set for working hard and valuing education, which helped me realize my potential to become a teacher. However, I also recognize that I was a teenager years ago. Being a teenager is hard enough without enduring burdens like feeling inferior to our peers daily while just trying to get fed. We can eliminate this specific burden.
In North Carolina, our policymakers can be rescuers this session including no-cost school meals for all in the state budget regardless of a student’s background.
They can exhibit grace and kindness while reaping the benefits of a fed and focused student body. By providing school meals for all students at no cost to families, we will feed hungry children and help them reach their greatest potential. Hungry students are distracted students. They’re more likely to act out in class, fall asleep, be quick to feel anger, shut down and not give 100%. Hungry students need help to actualize their potential. We must feed their bodies so we can feed their minds.