Gov. Bev Perdue joined Durham Mayor Bill Bell, Share Our Strength® and NC Serves, the lead nonprofit working with the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, to launch the No Kid Hungry® North Carolina partnership today. The public-private partnership will aim to end childhood hunger by using proven strategies to increase the number of North Carolina children who eat meals through programs funded by the federal government such as the School Breakfast Program.
"I am proud to be among the leaders here helping make government work better for our kids," Gov. Perdue said. "One of my top priorities is improving education for our children's future - strengthening their minds. For far too many of them, their bodies are not getting the nourishment they need. The resources for feeding our kids are there, and it's our job to make sure they are connected to them."
Recent findings show that more than one in four children (603,250) in North Carolina are at risk of hunger. The state also ranks 11th highest nationwide (28.5 %) in households with children that face food hardship and ranks 11th highest in overall child food insecurity (27.3 %).
Gov. Perdue is leading the No Kid Hungry North Carolina partnership with Share Our Strength, a national organization working to end childhood hunger, and NC Serves to convene a collaborating table of key stakeholders across the state that will improve access to federal food and nutrition programs for kids.
"Our focus is on long-term change, the difference between feeding a child today and making sure no child in the U.S. ever goes hungry again," said Bill Shore, founder and executive director of Share Our Strength. "We are pleased to be working with Gov. Perdue and believe that together we can end childhood hunger here in North Carolina and nationwide."
The partnership's focus during its first year is to connect more eligible low-income children to school breakfast and summer meals in coordination with the Department of Public Instruction. Studies show that students who do not eat breakfast have slower memory recall, make more errors and are more likely to be absent or tardy and to repeat a grade.
Breakfast is available in 99 percent of all North Carolina schools, and the Governor recently signed a bill allowing low-income kids who qualify for reduced-price lunch to get free breakfast. Yet of the more than 640,000 students who get a free or reduced-price lunch at school, fewer than half (310,516) participate in school breakfast.
Reasons for low participation include stigma, transportation barriers and lack of awareness of the program. No Kid Hungry North Carolina is taking proven steps to close the school breakfast gap by launching a pilot program with 27 schools across the state using a variety of strategies for increasing school breakfast participation which have worked successfully in other states.
"By using innovative meal delivery models, we hope to increase breakfast participation and arm students with the morning nutrition they need to focus and learn," said Dr. Lynn Harvey with the Department of Public Instruction. "Children should never start the school day hungry."
A recent Share Our Strength® survey of K-8th grade teachers showed that nearly two-thirds (65%) of teachers say there are children in their classrooms who regularly come to school hungry because they are not getting enough to eat at home.
"How can we expect children to pay attention and participate in class if we don't equip them with a nutritious morning meal?" asked Cornelius Redfearn, Principal of Lakewood Elementary School where the launch was held. "The School Breakfast Program offers children the chance to start the day with a healthy meal so they can succeed in school, but it is up to us to make these meals accessible to students."
The partnership will also work to make certain children receive regular, nutritious meals when school lets out for summer. Currently, only 13 percent of kids who get a free or reduced-price school lunch also get a free summer meal.
Like most states, North Carolina faces serious budget challenges. However, in 2010, the state could have brought more than $27 million in additional federal funds to local communities through greater participation in school breakfast and summer meals programs. Increasing participation in these programs will bring in more federal funding to the state. Share Our Strength is also committing more than $125,000 to the partnership.
Share Our Strength supports No Kid Hungry partnerships in 14 other states and will launch four more in 2011. These partnerships have seen tremendous success. The Colorado No Kid Hungry Campaign worked with Gov. Bill Ritter and the Commissioner of Education to launch the Colorado School Breakfast Challenge, which resulted in the state serving almost 330,000 more breakfasts in October 2010 than in October 2009, a 17 percent increase.
Share Our Strength also partners with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle to provide Cooking Matters courses in North Carolina. Cooking Matters volunteer culinary and nutrition experts empower families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make healthy and affordable meals and have reached more than 700 families in North Carolina since 2009.
Share Our Strength's national No Kid Hungry efforts are also supported by core partners ConAgra Foods Foundation and Food Network. Go to www.NoKidHungry.org/NorthCarolina to learn more about the partnership. Visit www.Strength.org to learn more about Share Our Strength.