Return to Headlines

6/30/19 ‘A lot of hungry kids’

Kitchen staff prepare food for hungry children at Broadview Middle School.

Jessica Williams / Times-News

Kitchen staff prepare food for hungry children at Broadview Middle School.

‘A lot of hungry kids’
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 6/30/19     
Reprinted with permission.  

Hunger doesn’t take summers off.

On June 17, Broadview Middle School became the hub for the Alamance-Burlington School System’s annual summer feeding program, which will provide free breakfast, lunch and/or snacks to 51 sites across the county until Aug. 16.

Monday through Friday, kitchen staff members come in at 6:30 a.m. to start packing breakfast food prepared the night before. Four vans leave by 7:15 a.m. to make the morning rounds. At lunchtime, there are seven vans traveling to churches, recreation centers, libraries, apartment buildings and more.

Manager Lori Snow said they usually serve around 650 children breakfast and anywhere between 1,200 and 1,550 lunch, depending on what’s on the menu.

“They like pizza,” Snow joked.

This is the first summer the school system has partnered with Domino’s to deliver “Smart Slice” pizzas to each site. And though the recipes are altered to fit U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional guidelines — whole grain dough, lowfat cheese, reduced sodium — it’s still the most popular meal.

Hot foods in general have been a big hit.

Prior to 2017–2018, ABSS provided only cold items, like sandwiches and fruit cups. Now, they use specially insulated bags to keep hot meals at temperature during transport, and staff at each site are trained on how to handle the food safely.

Child Nutrition Director Pam Bailey noticed an uptick in participation after making the change, but said there is still a lot of room to expand.

The program is federally funded through the USDA and aims to serve kids and teens in low-income areas of the county nutritious meals over the summer when school meals aren’t provided.

More than 12,000 ABSS students receive either free or reduced-price lunch during the school year — more than half of the entire student body. Yet sites like Tucker Street Apartments in Burlington, where there is a high level of need, aren’t participating in the program.

“Someone has to be there to do the paperwork, check off those kids, monitor those kids as they eat the meals,” Bailey said. “And Tucker Street lost out last year. I think they got fed once. And they lost out this year. And we know there’s a dire need there. … We know that there are a lot of apartment complexes, some low-income, that we’re not able to reach.”

Bailey needs community volunteers to go through training and take on those responsibilities, but many people aren’t willing to dedicate the time during the summer.

That’s why she’s been pulling for a food truck.

“With that food truck, you can reach a lot more because the meal is on there,” she said. “One of our employees can park for 30 minutes, get those kids fed, and drive to the next site and feed even more kids. I know there’s still a lot of hungry kids, and I know we’re not reaching all of the kids we need to reach.”

But with limited funds, the food truck is still a dream.

For now, Bailey and the rest of her staff are focused on feeding the kids they have been able to reach. Though it’s hard work providing more than 2,000 meals a day, it’s worth it to see happy kids with full bellies.