food

A Carteret County school system child nutrition worker preps a salad bar Thursday in the West Carteret High School cafeteria. Rising food costs and supply chain issues have created challenges for the program. (Cheryl Burke photo)

 

BEAUFORT — Rising food prices and supply chain issues are creating unprecedented challenges for the county public school system’s child nutrition program.

“There’s been a 30% to 40% increase in food costs, and it’s been difficult to get certain supplies,” Carteret County Child Nutrition Director Melissa Albright said Thursday. “It’s been supplies like portion cups and containers to put soups and salads in. We’ve had difficulty getting lunch trays. We get substitute lists of (food) items when certain items aren’t available.”

Despite the challenges, Ms. Albright said she’s determined to make sure children receive nutritious meals.

“It’s about feeding kids. That’s my goal,” she said. “It’s about serving them something they really want to eat and providing them proper nutrition.”

With increasing costs impacting the program, Ms. Albright said she may be forced to raise prices for school meals for high school students for the 2022-23 academic year.

“I’m afraid that is a possibility for our high schools,” she said. “High school students will need to apply for free- and reduced-price meals to continue to qualify for free meals.”

All county students are currently receiving free school lunches and breakfasts because of federal and state funds provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. That program ends June 30.

While the free meals will end for high school students for 2022-23, elementary and middle school children will continue to receive free meals next year due to the school system’s participation in the federal Community Eligibility Provision program, a non-pricing meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas. That program expires beginning with the 2023-24 school year for Carteret County.

Ms. Albright said she continues to look for federal and state programs that will assist county students with food costs. The challenge is that Carteret County is not considered a low-wealth county, which creates roadblocks when applying for federal grants.

“We have pockets of low-wealth areas, but our county is not considered low-wealth,” she said.

Overall, she said about 30% of county students qualify for federal food assistance programs such as TANF or SNAP.

Ms. Albright did apply for and qualify to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program, which provides free meals to students attending the Boys & Girls Club after-school program at Beaufort Elementary School. That program will continue through the end of this school year. Students began receiving free meals April 15.

She said the reason it’s only offered at the Boys & Girls Club in Beaufort is that area has more than 50% of its students qualified for free or reduced-price meals.

“We hope to expand this program in the future,” she said. “Right now, it is serving about 50 students.”

Ms. Albright also plans to offer state and federal summer feeding programs for students during summer school and at other various locations. She said those interested in hosting a summer lunch program should contact Angie Zachary at angie.zachary@carteretk12.org by the mid-May.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

(9) comments

David Collins

Just no end of free food in the schools and more on the way . Going to have to raise the price from free to more free . High schoolers that were fed free will have to apply to get this more free . Sure , makes perfect sense . Taxpayers are the only ones not getting anything free or in this case , more free .

noitall

Brown bag with two PBJ sandwiches and an apple. Save the bag and re-use, there's a war on.

drewski

Overall, she said about 30% of county students qualify for federal food assistance programs such as TANF or SNAP. I can't get too upset about providing food to children. The whole EBT and Snap program needs an overhaul, buying soda pop and slices of pizza with food stamps? Come on now thats insane.

David Collins

Makes perfect sense to the education people . They make money from junk food sales just like any other store . Been inside a school lately of seen who shows up at the delivery door ? Not to mention what goes out of some of those back doors at the end of the day . Nuff said .

dc

Might need to increase the size of the WH Rose Garden garden. Dr. Jill may not have a green thumb like Michelle though. According to some educators that healthy meals program wasn't anything to brag about. The food situation for all may get really serious in the not too distant future.

drewski

" according to some, many ppl have told me, experts say" This all sounds so familiar but I can't quite place it. Meanwhile we have allegations of food theft from the schools. Are innuendo, and hyperbole, and fear mongering the sum total of the comments or are there any actual facts related to the topic . The fact that 30% of students qualify for free/ reduced lunches should be concerning to any responsible adults. What does that say about the economic health of the county? Is feeding poor children somehow political? Lets focus on what is important. Hunter Biden's laptop. sheesh!

noitall

That is right!! We are being set up for a food shortage as we write this.

Open the pipeline and all these crisis will evaporate faster than an egg frying on a hot sidewalk. Shazam Gone!!

dc

Understand CCPS cafeterias serve great meals especially a la carte selections as compared to others. Once again CCPS shine.

David Collins

There is only a shortage if you , personally , can not get it .

Welcome to the discussion.

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