Posted by: Sara Coe Published: August 26, 2020

Many area school kids would not have food without the schools

When most people think of K-12 schools, they think of things like reputation, quality of education, statewide rankings, school taxes, and so forth. What is often not recognized is the fact that public school systems are the major way many poor children get fed in our country. There are two public school systems in Cabarrus County. During the booming economy, last school year seven out of every ten of the students enrolled in the Kannapolis Public School System qualified for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch on school days. If this program did not exist, 3,780 school kids would not have had enough food to eat during the school week. [1] During the strong economy, we had last year, in the Cabarrus County school system, about a third of all students met the federal poverty standards required to receive free or reduced-price breakfast or lunch on school days. If this program did not exist, 11,000 students who attend Cabarrus County school system would not have enough food to eat during the school week. [2] Pause and think about that for a moment. When you total up the number helped in these two public school systems, almost 15,000 children – vulnerable members of our community – depend on our public school systems for the majority of what they eat! And along came COVID-19, and the challenge just got greater. During the last school year, until COVID-19 hit, unemployment in Cabarrus County was between 4 and 5%. It is now at least triple that, which is going to make the challenge of feeding a growing number of kids from income challenged homes a lot harder this year. [3]  As COVID impacts schools this fall, Kannapolis students attend school two days a week and take on-line classes the other 3 days. [4]  Eligible students will receive in-person breakfast and lunch 2 days a week, and be provided with take-home breakfast and lunch for the 3 remote learning days. Cabarrus County school system will start the year entirely online. [5]  So all those meals have to be delivered. Note that this is not all the food the child needs. It is breakfast and lunch only, and does not include weekends. This need to feed the increasing number of kids does not go away if schools are closed and students are supposed to learn totally on line. Instead, it increases the responsibility added to the school systems already stressed staff as they prepare, box, and deliver food from central kitchens to either schools without working kitchens or to other central locations where those responsible for caring for the child can collect it. The Kannapolis School System is beginning a program of recruiting volunteers to help with cope with the challenges they are facing. They have set up a steering committee, and are working to support school principals recruit the help their specific school needs. So far school Principals have identified the need for help in setting up socially-distanced classrooms, helping to distribute technology devices, and providing necessary school supplies such as water bottles and school supplies. District-wide needs, including connectivity and childcare for KCS families, also exist. A couple of organizations, including the YMCA and Bethel Baptist Church, are working to help families with childcare and more help is needed. [6] Those willing to pitch in on any of these projects should be prepared to respect the schools need to know who is coming to help, when they are coming and be sure that the volunteers are aware they must follow all health and safety protocols. Volunteers will not come into contact with students The next time you or someone know picks up food from the school, or hugs a kid who got some, please remember to thank the dedicated front-line workers whose work make it possible. As you speak through your mask, tell them you owe them a hug you regret you cannot deliver.   [1] Personal communication, Ms. Stefanie Almond, Director of School Nutrition, Cabarrus County Schools. August 6 2020 11:19 am [2] Personal email communication, Dr. Chip Buckwell, Kannapolis School System August 6, 2020 [3] https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/NCROWA5URN [4] Salisbury Post August 5, 2020 [5] Independent Tribune August 5, 2020 CCS teachers entering year more confident in educating virtually. [6] Personal email, Dr. Kevin Garay, Kannapolis City Schools, August 5th 5:03 pm


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