Wake County launches food programs at poorest schools

RALIEGH, N.C. (AP/WNCN) — Wake County leaders are touting progress in providing food for students in need.

The county announced Tuesday that every public school in Wake County where more than 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch now has at least one program that offers free food for students before or after school.

“Research proves that students can’t focus on learning in the classroom if they’re hungry,” said Matt Calabria in a press release. Calabria is the vice chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners and the Wake County Food Security Working Group founder. “Nearly 45,000 children in our county may not always know where their next meal is coming from, which is why it’s so important to provide a source of healthy food that they can count on.”

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Commissioner Matt Calabria launched an effort to provide more food security for students in 2015. That year, his initiative offered programs and opened food pantries at 38 of the 48 poorest schools. The initiative has launched programs at the remaining schools over the last 18 months.

“Many of the schools needing additional resources are middle and high schools where backpack food distribution programs are not traditionally as effective,” said Monika Johnson-Hostler, Wake County School Board Chairwoman and working group member. “Mary E. Phillips High School is a great example of the effectiveness of establishing a food pantry at a school. From October 2016 when it opened through January 2017, it provided enough fresh, healthy food to serve 1,721 meals.”

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