DURHAM — A new program aims to expand federally-funded school breakfast to more children in North Carolina in an effort to fight childhood hunger.
The program, dubbed "No Kid Hungry," will start with a pilot effort in 28 schools across the state, including Lakewood Elementary in Durham. Free breakfast will be offered widely, and it will be available in the classroom or in "grab and go" bags as children enter the school building. The program will also expand free meals to children in the summer.
The effort was announced this morning by Gov. Bev Perdue, Durham Mayor Bill Bell and two organizations -- Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit, and NC Serves, a nonprofit in North Carolina.
"We all know breakfast is really the most important meal of the day, so if we can help our kids get a great start on the day, then they'll have a terrific finish and they'll end up being great students," Perdue said.
One in four children in North Carolina are at risk of hunger. The state is 11th highest in the nation in households that face food hardship.
Of the 640,000 North Carolina students who qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch, fewer than half participate in school breakfast.
Share Our Strength has similar partnerships in 14 other states and will launch four more this year.
"In the states where we've already done it, we've seen huge results -- literally tens of thousands of kids added to school breakfast, added to summer meals, so we know that we can do that here in North Carolina," said Bill Shore, founder of Share Our Strength. "The federal money is set aside to pay for it and so it's money that comes into North Carolina and buys milk from local dairy farmers, bread from local bakeries, so it's a win-win for everybody."