Pitt County volunteer group passes the plate to hungry bellies this summer

As the school year comes to a close, some families may be struggling to provide.
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 6:49 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - For more than 300,000 children in Eastern Carolina, school lunch is a necessity to get the nutrient-filled meals they need.

With the school year over, some families may be struggling to provide.

But in Greenville, the Salvation Army has partnered with the Food Bank to fill that gap, and all kids have to do is show up.

“Being fed, being full, and being nourished is not a privilege,” said volunteer Barcey Godwin. “It’s a basic human right.”

Until August 26, families can visit the Salvation Army on S. Memorial Dr. for a free meal for kids 18 years old and under every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

Each day the menu is something different.

“Nachos and cheese, some milk, some vegetables and a banana,” said Anna Rossi in between bites. “It was really good.”

For the volunteers, going without food is a struggle that hits close to home.

“If they’re anything like me growing up, school food is the only food you have,” said Godwin.

It’s difficult for parents to keep everything from their children, no matter how hard they try.

Another volunteer, Matt Johnson, recalls growing up with his mom, who had to provide for two kids on one salary.

“I know she hit the food bank several times when I was growing up, probably more than I realized,” said Johnson.

At the end of June, millions of families are expecting the COVID free school lunch program to expire, but food insecurity is nothing new to the East.

“I’m 25 years old. I remember when I was 5 being hungry and there was no COVID 20 years ago,” said Godwin.

On Tuesday, a group of bipartisan lawmakers announced a bill that would extend the food program through the summer. Amongst those spearheading the effort is republican senator Virginia Foxx from North Carolina’s fifth district.

But the extension has not yet been approved.

To have come through that hardship and make it out to the other side, volunteers are hoping to change the story for the next generation of kids.

“Maybe you’re eating toast because that’s all you’ve got is a loaf of bread and a toaster, but to be able to give people a chance at a relatively balanced meal, it’s definitely something I was interested in trying to do,” said Johnson.

If you are fortunate to not be experiencing food insecurity, volunteers say there is still something you can do to help: get the word out about the program.

In the first two days of the program, they have given away just 15-percent of the lunches they have available.

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