Warren County Schools has expanded its free summer meals program from two to five sites this year to ensure that young people up to age 18 will not go hungry while they are out of school.

Since the summer meals program began four years ago, it has operated at Warren County Middle School and Warren County High School. However, a project operated by the N.C. Division of Health and Human Services Summer Meals Program, the University of North Carolina Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and the No Kid Hungry Foundation has allowed the program to expand into more communities this summer.

Warren County resident Bill Kearney, local project facilitator, said that, in the past, only 4 percent of approximately 2,000 children who could benefit from the summer meals program were able to travel to meal sites to receive food. 

“The issue was getting kids to the locations, increasing community awareness of the program,” he said.

Kearney noted that Warren County is among 58 North Carolina counties labeled as “strike force,” meaning that there is a high need for subsidized meals for children. This designation identified the county as an ideal place to study how the meals program could be expanded.

Warren was selected as one of six counties to participate in a concentrated effort to identify area organizations and individuals who could help the meals program expand. Kearney and others involved in the research project conducted a series of local meetings earlier in the year designed to increase community involvement. 

Several local residents agreed to coordinate summer meals sites in their communities. They include Patricia Somerville, F&M Mobile Home Park, 105 Queen St., outside Warrenton; Mary and Howard Jones, 305 Warren Plains Rd., Norlina; and the WCTS-NWHS Alumni Association & Friends, Inc., 430 Paschall Station Rd., Warrenton (Wise community).

Sites will be open on the following schedules: Warren County High School, June 16-Aug. 8; Warren County Middle School, June 19-July 30; F&M Mobile Home Park, June 23-Aug. 8; Mary and Howard Jones’ place, June 23-July 18; and WCTS/NWHS site, June 23-July 11.

Breakfast will be served on the following schedule: 8:15-8:45 a.m., WCHS; 8-8:30 a.m., WCMS; and 8:45-9:30 a.m., WCTS/NWHS. The lunch schedule is as follows: 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m., WCHS; 11:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m., WCMS; noon-1:15 p.m., F&M Mobile Home Park; noon-1 p.m., Mary and Howard Jones’ place; and noon-12:45 p.m., WCTS/NWHS.

Robert Parker, Jr., Warren County Schools’ child nutrition director, said that the meals are for all children and young people up to 18 years of age with no registration required.

“Just show up at the sites,” he said. “The program is designed to feed hungry children at no cost.”

Parker anticipates that the summer meals program could serve as many as 750 young people this year, including those participating in summer learning and sports camps at the local schools.

“Here in Warren County, (the program) is a great assistance to families in the summer as they face increased grocery bills,” he said.

Parker praised the efforts of the local volunteers who have joined forces with the school system to make meals available in more communities this year. However, he hopes that more area residents will follow their lead and volunteer to serve as site coordinators for next year’s program so that free meals can be provided to more youth in more areas of the county.

For more information about serving as a site coordinator or volunteer for next year, contact Robert Parker at 252-257-3184, ext. 1239 or email rparker@warrenk12nc.org.