NC schools say, “We’re making sure no child goes hungry on our watch.”
Lisa Payne takes the phrase “no kid hungry” to heart.
As the Nutrition Director for Buncombe County Schools (BCS), she leads a team of people who are on a mission to make sure no student goes without a meal.
“This is something we take very seriously in Buncombe County,” Lisa said. “We are proud to do whatever it takes to ensure no child goes without a meal.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, BCS Nutrition (BCSN) provided daily meals to help fight food insecurity affecting 16% of its student population. When the pandemic hit, that number shot up dramatically. School nutrition services became more important to the community than ever.
When school started to close and move to remote learning, the BCSN team didn’t skip a beat. They used 25 of the county’s 44 schools as meal pick-up sites. Within days, they transformed BCSN into the largest to-go food service organization in western North Carolina.
However, BCSN quickly learned that many families in rural areas didn’t have transportation. Not all parents could get to the schools to pick up free meals for their kids. So BCSN switched to a mobile meal delivery model. This way, they made sure students had nutritious breakfasts and lunches on a weekly basis.
Using all resources on hand–county-owned vehicles, six vans, its Rolling to Feed bus and school buses–the team drove deep into rural areas and left meals on porches to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“We put a lot more miles on a lot more vehicles and learned very quickly from our community partnerships where food insecure people were and how to reach them,” Lisa said. “We all locked arms and said, ‘We’re making sure no child goes hungry on our watch.’”
Now, a “Meals on the Move” grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) and Carolina Hunger Initiative (a project at UNC working in collaboration with No Kid Hungry NC) will add another vehicle to the fleet: a Ford Explorer and a 20-foot trailer equipped with a freezer unit. This addition will allow BCSN to serve even more students on-the-go.
“Out of conflict comes change,” said Alison Conroy, BCS School Nutrition Supervisor. “What an interesting year this has been, but what a great year it has been to watch the human effort in preventing food insecurity. We hope that this has a happy ending and are working toward it.”
BCSN’s adaptability throughout the pandemic bodes well for the future. They continue to distribute meals as students transition from remote to hybrid and in-person learning.
About 5,000 of these students have chosen to remain remote through the rest of the school year. BCSN provides them with 7-day meal kits, which include frozen meals with cooking instructions.
Nine other school districts across the state also received “Meals on the Move” grants, including:
- Cherokee County
- Dare County
- Lee County
- Macon County
- Robeson County
- Scotland County
- Tyrrell County
- Union County
- Yancey County
The Carolina Hunger Initiative is just one of the many local programs that Blue Cross NC is investing in to aid our community in COVID-19 relief. For more information regarding relief efforts and the latest on COVID-19, visit https://www.bluecrossnc.com/covid-19.