by Analisa Sorrells |
“Think about a kid’s day,” said Tabari Wallace, the 2018 NC Principal of the Year. Describing a typical day for a student at his school, West Craven High, Wallace continued:
“My students’ days start at 4:00, 4:30. My children get on the bus, they ride 90 minutes to school … then they study with societal expectations on them, teacher expectations on them, principal expectations on them … then lord help if you play an athletic sport or you’re in theater because, now you have to go to practice … now it’s 5:00 and they have 90 minutes to get home … then they get up and do it all over again.”
“Now imagine doing that hungry.”
Wallace’s remarks hung in the air during No Kid Hungry NC‘s 8th annual NC Child Hunger Leaders Conference held Wednesday. Child nutrition directors, educators, nonprofit leaders, and child nutrition advocates gathered at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill to share stories and strategies around implementing innovative school nutrition programs to feed hungry children. No Kid Hungry NC works to end childhood hunger by increasing access to federally funded meals, such as school breakfast, summer meals, and after school meals.
According to Feeding America, 1 in 5 children in North Carolina is food insecure, which means they may not have consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. While any student attending a school that offers school meals can access them, free- and reduced-price school meals are offered to low-income students. During the 2017-18 school year, almost 682,000 students in North Carolina received free- or reduced-price school lunches through the National School Lunch Program. In the same year, about 397,000 students received free- or reduced-price school breakfast.
For Freebird McKinney, the 2018 NC Teacher of the Year who attended Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the experience of eating free- and reduced-price school meals hits close to home.
“For the first time in my life I realized that I was very different from the other kids, and it was made apparent when I got a little card and I went to a different school lunch line,” said McKinney.
He credits one of his elementary school teachers, Ms. Velazquez, for pulling him aside and urging him to “not allow this to dictate you and your voice.”