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Fueling Children’s Futures…and Our Own

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

We met Caley during her first visit to the food pantry serving her rural, mountain community, her three children in tow - Samuel, Jr., age 8, Luna, age 6, and Ella, age 3. She talked quietly as she spoke to us about her circumstances, explaining “I’m still finding my footing.”

She’d only recently lost her husband to a heart attack. Although money had always been tight owing to the nature of Samuel, Sr.’s work in construction, Caley says they got by with help from programs like free meals for her kids during the school year, summer meal programs, and a modest monthly Food and Nutrition Services allotment.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina’s partner network of more than 500 food assistance programs aided 65,507 residents with food this past May. Thousands are like Caley, who never had to ask for food assistance before. Nearly one-third are children.

Looking at May of this year over May of last year, the Second Harvest network saw a 56 percent increase in requests for food assistance. Unfortunately, we’ve seen similar numbers during each month of 2023. This is a trend we anticipate will continue and worsen as the strain of inflation wreaks havoc on the balancing act that characterizes so many household budgets. Second Harvest and our many partners and community of supporters will continue to step up to the challenges and do all we can to assist families like Caley’s.

To respond to the challenges surrounding food insecurity in our communities, we must combine our private actions with sensible, accountable public policy. We invite you to join us in ways that are meaningful to you.

Raising our voices in support of essential federal nutrition programs, particularly those that support the nutritional needs of children, is vital to individuals and our communities reaching their full potential.

Second Harvest continues to advocate for expanded access to free- and reduced-priced school meals during the school year, partnering with School Meals for All, and changes to policy that will reduce obstacles to children accessing meals through the long months school is out of session.

School meal participation is linked to improved diets and physical and mental health. This support also can contribute to a host of positive educational outcomes, including improved attendance, behavior, and academic performance, as well as decreased absenteeism and tardiness. School meals do more than fill the plates of children; they quite literally fuel the futures of children and our communities. Moreover, when school meals are free, it removes the social stigma that frequently accompanies participation in the free- and low-cost school meal program. States have numerous legislative options to expand access to free school meals, and the best approach will depend on a state’s policy goals and budget and community and political will.

Some important improvements to the federal free summer meals program are on the horizon for implementation in the summer of 2024. Meanwhile, the decades-old summer meal gap looms.

At Second Harvest Food Bank, we’re reinforcing our core food distribution program, knowing that the closure of most schools for summer will mean more families coming to our network for help to feed their children. We’re amping up our Community Meals program, which will provide thousands of children with nutritious, tray-packed meals throughout the months school is out this summer. Our Fill a Plate. Fuel a Future. campaign makes this work possible and is matching all gifts dollar for dollar through June 30, 2023. I hope you will consider doubling the impact of your generosity at

We are also staying alert to ongoing proposed legislation that would see cuts to programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Program or SNAP (known as FNS in our state and formerly known as Food Stamps), which is our nation’s first line of defense against food insecurity, providing 9 meals for every one meal distributed by food banks, and offering a boost to local economies. SNAP primarily serves children under age 18, adults living with disabilities disability, and people over age 60 living in poverty.

Around the matter of food, something that all children and each of us needs to fully thrive in life, can we not agree that doing what it takes to fill plates and fuel futures is worthy of uniting across aisles? Cuts to federal nutrition programs will only worsen food insecurity and health outcomes for children and other vulnerable residents. If you agree, I am asking you to let your elected officials know.

Together, we can improve children’s lives and our collective future.

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Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC

3655 Reed St. 

Winston-Salem, NC 27107

Tel: 336-784-5770

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