Summer Nutrition Programs Offer Meals for Children at No Cost While School Is Out

Raleigh, NC

Nearly 1 million North Carolina public school students were eligible last year to receive free or reduced-priced meals at school through the National School Lunch Program. Many of these students rely on the nutritious meals available through the school nutrition programs as their primary source of food during the school day.

When schools closed in March 2020, students’ access to school meals was interrupted. Thankfully, the N. C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) received waivers from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) to activate the Summer Nutrition Programs during school closures.  These programs typically provide meals to children during the summer months when school is out of session; they are also activated during emergency school closures due to natural disasters, public health emergencies or other unanticipated school closures.

School nutrition professionals, community organizations and various advocacy groups have been working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide nutritious, appealing meals to children in every county in the state. These schools and community partners will continue to work together during the spring and summer months to provide meals to children as food insecurity continues to affect many families.

N.C. Summer Nutrition Programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option, operate in a variety of locations, including schools, parks, faith-based facilities, residential properties, public housing facilities, medical centers, community centers and other convenient sites within each county. Schools and community organizations, serving as Summer Nutrition Program sponsors, have received guidance regarding pandemic protocols related to face coverings, social distancing and personal hygiene practices, including appropriate food safety practices in the preparation and service of food.

Guidelines for Ensuring Health and Safety for School Nutrition Staff and Children and Families Receiving School Nutrition Services were developed by NCDPI, in conjunction with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the State Board of Education and executive orders from the Office of the Governor. Regulatory flexibilities through June 30, 2021, allow children to get meals by curbside pick-up, meal deliveries by school buses or through meal bundles provided throughout the week. These service options vary from county to county, and all incorporate social distancing and other practices to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Meals served at summer nutrition sites are available at no cost to children 18 and under regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. Registration and ID are not required. To find free, safe, nutritious, appealing meals for children near you:

  • Text "FoodNC" to 877-877 for information in English or “COMIDA” to 877-877 for information in Spanish,
  • Call toll-free 1.866.3Hungry (1.866.348.6479) or 1.877.8Hambre (1.877.842.6273), or
  • Visit the USDA's Summer Meal Site Finder, https://www.fns.usda.gov/SummerFoodRocks.

The text service is provided by No Kid Hungry.

Summer Nutrition Programs operate in low-income areas where 50% or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. NCDPI works to recruit and train public school districts, charter and non-public schools, and public and private non-profit organizations to participate as program sponsors. Approved program sponsors receive federal reimbursement for all qualifying meals served to children. Additional information regarding N.C. Summer Nutrition Programs may be found on the NCDPI, School Nutrition Services website.

Individuals, groups and organizations interested in getting involved as sponsors, sites, activity providers or volunteers should contact the NCDPI Summer Nutrition team at summernutritionprogram@dpi.nc.gov.

Please help ensure no child goes hungry in North Carolina!

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In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at 800.877.8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call 866.632.9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights1400 Independence Avenue, SWWashington, D.C. 20250-9410;
(2) fax: 202.690.7442; or
(3) email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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