If students are especially eager to get back to school after a snow day, it might not be because they’re hungry to learn. They might actually be hungry.
In the seven-county region of Wake, Durham, Orange, Johnston, Chatham, Nash and Edgecombe, 118,080 kindergarten through 12th-grade students – 45 percent of the combined area’s student population – applied for free or reduced-price meals during the 2016-17 school year. For some, the school cafeteria is the most reliable source of food in their lives.
School cancellations, especially when they stretch into several days, can force families to choose between paying utility or pharmacy bills and having enough food.
“I worry very much about kids not getting anything to eat over the snow break,” Kyle Abrams, the child and hunger programs manager for Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, told The News & Observer in 2015, when back-to-back winter storms forced schools to cancel for several days. “Most, hopefully, are able to scrounge out something for themselves. It’s tough when the schools aren’t running.”
The Triangle is expected to see up to 6 inches of snow Wednesday, and most school districts canceled classes. If the snow sticks around, and if it turns to ice, schools could face further cancellations or delays.
During summer and holiday breaks, some students have access to food programs run by community groups. BackPack Buddies helps on weekends throughout the school year, as long as volunteers are able to distribute the bags.
The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, a Raleigh-based hunger-relief organization that coordinates the BackPack Buddies program in the seven-county region, provides much of the food for the backpacks.
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, based in Raleigh, also supports a weekend food distribution program called Weekend Power Pack for students in need.
But there are no protocols to make sure children have access to food during weather-related school closures.
How to help
Here’s how you can help families get enough food when schools are closed:
▪ The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, based in Raleigh, distributes food to community organizations across 34 counties. The Food Bank accepts donations of food and cash. For more information, go to www.foodbankcenc.org.
▪ The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle uses cash donations to purchase food below retail prices and distributes it across seven counties in the Triangle and beyond. For more information, go to http://foodshuttle.org.
▪ Catholic Parish Outreach serves thousands of people each month and says a $25 donation can feed a family for a week. For more information, go to www.cporaleigh.org.
▪ Urban Ministries of Wake County gets about half the 500,000 pounds of food it distributes each year from individuals, civic groups and churches. You can find a full wish list of items it needs at www.urbanmin.org/wish-list. Cash donations are welcome. For more information, go to www.urbanmin.org.
▪ Urban Ministries of Durham relies on donations of food and cash to operate its food pantry and has a list of items it needs at www.umdurham.org.
If you need help
Dozens of pantries across the Triangle provide food to families in need. Some are open daily, others just a few hours a week. Some require certification through Social Services and limit pantry visits to once every 30 days.
▪ Catholic Parish Outreach, 2013 N. Raleigh Blvd., Raleigh, 919-873-0245. Open to clients from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
▪ Urban Ministries of Wake County, 1390 Capital Blvd., Raleigh, 919-836-1642. In inclement weather, call to check if the offices are open. Pantry is open 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
▪ Helping Hand Mission, 623 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh, 919-829-8048. Pantry is open daily for as long as food is available.
▪ Millbrook United Methodist Church, 1712 E. Millbrook Road, Raleigh, 919-876-0865. Food pantry is open 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday and Saturday for Wake County residents. In inclement weather, check the pantry’s Facebook page for updates: www.facebook.com/millbrookfoodpantry.
▪ Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, 110 W. Main St., Carrboro, 919-929-6380. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and until 7 p.m. on most Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Serves those who live or work in Chapel Hill or Carrboro.
▪ Urban Ministries of Durham, 410 Liberty St., Durham, 919-682-0538. Food pantry serves up to 20 households and 5 shelter clients per day: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Clients should arrive 10-15 minutes before doors open.
▪ Edgerton Memorial United Methodist Church, 401 W. Anderson St., Selma, 919-965-3761. Food pantry is open Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. or until 150 families have been served.
Martha Quillin: 919-829-8989, @marthaquillin