MOREHEAD CITY — Nearly 300 families of Carteret County students received much needed food assistance Saturday during the “Feeding Kids Event,” hosted by the county public school system.
The drive-thru food distribution took place simultaneously at Croatan High School, East Carteret High School and West Carteret High School.
County school officials invited families in need of food over the two-week Christmas break to sign up for the distribution. Families that signed up received a meal box for each student in their family. Each meal box included 10 frozen breakfast meals and 10 frozen lunch meals.
In addition, two churches and a business were giving out gift cards for food and turkeys at the various locations. The National Charity League, along with students from various schools, handed out cookies and treats, as well.
Carteret County Schools Child Nutrition Director Melissa Albright organized the project, saying there were families in need of the help during the holidays.
“I don’t want any child being hungry over the holidays,” Ms. Albright said. “Since (the coronavirus pandemic), a lot of people have lost their jobs and I think this is very important.”
She added that she didn’t have the most recent information on the percentage of students on free- and reduced-price meals because the school system qualified last year for a federal Community Eligibility Program that provides free breakfasts and lunches to all students in grades kindergarten through eighth-grade.
Although not at the event Saturday, last week Salvation Army Social Services Director Heather Hall said she’s seen a 20% increase in families seeking food assistance compared to the previous year.
“For a while families weren’t coming in because of COVID, but now they’re coming in asking for food assistance because of their financial need,” Ms. Hall said.
Those receiving food at WCHS said they were grateful for the help.
“This means a lot,” parent Susan Morgan said. “Without this it would be very difficult. This will help get us through the Christmas break.”
Superintendent Dr. Rob Jackson praised the child nutrition department and Ms. Albright for reaching out to meet the needs of struggling families. He also thanked volunteers who helped with the project.
“I am extremely appreciative of Mrs. Albright and all the employees of the Child Nutrition Department for voluntarily taking on this meal project,” Dr. Jackson said. “This was not a requirement of any type. These dedicated employees recognized the need for students to have meals over the long winter break… This is a labor of love and demonstrates the commitment they have to providing nutritious meals for our students at all times.”
County Board of Education Chairperson Clark Jenkins, who was helping with the distribution at WCHS, agreed.
“I love that we have a school system that cares passionately about our students and families,” he said. “This is all about our kids and doing stuff like this is what it’s all about.”
Also helping at the high school;s distribution were members of First United Methodist Church, who were handing out $30 gift cards for meals at Captain’s Table and Fat Fella’s restaurants.
“We thought this was a way to help restaurants and provide food for the families,” church member Waylon Bell said.
Additionally, at CHS, members of Parkview Baptist Church in Morehead City gave families grocery store gift cards. At ECHS, free frozen turkeys, donated by Johnson Family Dentistry, were given away while supplies lasted.
As far as the numbers, the school system and volunteers assisted 118 families at WCHS 118 families at CHS and 36 families at ECHS. Three hundred seventy-nine meal boxes were distributed, in total 7,520 meals.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.