Atrium Health expands summer food programs to address food insecurity

Published 11:33 am Monday, June 28, 2021

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It’s a sad and unfortunate statistic: one in five children in North Carolina face hunger, according to Feeding America.

As part of its commitment to addressing food insecurity throughout the Charlotte region, Atrium Health is continuing to offer summer nutrition programs in Mecklenburg, Union, Cabarrus, Lincoln and Stanly counties. This is the fifth year Atrium Health has been involved in the program, with nearly 50,000 meals served to those in need.

During the school year, many students rely on meals served through the School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program and Afterschool Meals Program. However, meals are still needed for children who may not have a dependable source of food available during the summer months.

Atrium Health is partnering with food suppliers Sodexo and Morrison Healthcare to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, providing free, healthy meals for anyone age 18 and younger. Meals will be distributed during drive-thru events at Atrium Health – University City, Atrium Health – Union, Atrium Health – Cabarrus and Atrium Health – Stanly, now through Aug. 20. Meals will be served between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., or while supplies last. For the first time, Atrium Health – Cabarrus is partnering with Covenant Presbyterian Church, in Kannapolis, as a distribution site for the “Kids Eat Free” program in Cabarrus County.

“Atrium Health is fortunate to have partners across the region, such as Covenant Presbyterian Church, to help deliver fresh, healthy food to the children who need it,” said Asha Rodriguez, vice president and facility executive at Atrium Health – Cabarrus. “In the program’s first four years, nearly 50,000 meals have been served, helping to ensure area children continue to receive balanced nutrition each day, which is essential to promoting growth, cognitive development and healthy eating habits all summer long.”

Atrium Health’s Summer Food Bus will deliver free meals provided by Lincoln County Schools to those age 18 and younger, Monday through Friday, through Aug. 6. Each day, children will receive a to-go bag with their lunch and also breakfast items for the following morning. On Fridays, children will receive meals for the day and additional meals for the weekend.

Atrium Health – Union will help supplement Union County Public Schools’ summer feeding program schedule by providing curbside meals from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., July 6 – 9, and also from Aug. 9-20.

Stanly County Schools is partnering with Atrium Health to provide meals July 5-8, and Aug. 16-19, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the corner of North Second Street and Hawthorne Avenue located on the campus of Atrium Health – Stanly.

“Atrium Health is proud to continue supporting our families in need during the pandemic,” said Lois Ingland, vice president of community engagement and corporate responsibility for Atrium Health. “We know the best way to stay protected against COVID-19 and end the pandemic is to get vaccinated. To that end, Atrium Health is now offering COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone 12 and older at food distribution sites. Increasing access to food and health care are two things we know are critical to living a healthy life.”

New to the program this year, Atrium Health has two AmeriCorps summer associates, in partnership with HungerFree America, who will be helping with the “Kids Eat Free” programs. These workers will be onsite at different pickup locations, helping to ensure food gets into the hands and bellies of those in our community who need it most.

In order to observe appropriate social distancing practices to help ensure the safety of the children, their families and those helping them, all meals will be provided in bags passed through the window or placed in the trunk of the car as a recipient is driven through the pick-up line. All program teammates will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.

North Carolina Summer Food Service Programs are administered by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and School Nutrition Services Section, with federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The programs are designed to prevent students from going hungry when school is not in session by providing free, healthy meals for children, age 18 years and under.