State Department of Health and Human Services needs volunteers to make sure children have healthy food in summer
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A summer food program needs volunteers across North Carolina. The State Department of Health and Human Services manages a federally-funded program that offers meals and snacks to children ages 18 and under.
Tuesday, Shanta Williams, 18, served up meal after meal during lunch at The Mustard Seed Ministry in Wilmington. She is one of about two dozen volunteers who help with the Summer Food Service Program.
This program has more then 350 sites across the state where children can get nutritious meals. The Ministry feeds their campers and any child who walks through their doors.
"If we ordered enough food for what we normally have and we have an influx of 25, we will make sure we go back and get enough food," said Derrell Clark, with The Mustard Seed Ministry.
Volunteers like Williams help make it all run smoothly. But state officials said other sites are not so lucky, they need extra help.
"Every year our program sees growth, unfortunately we're struggling to try to increase the number of kids receiving the meals," said Cynthia Ervin, the program coordinator.
When school is in session, more than 770,000 children receive free or reduced price meals. For some, it may be the only balanced meal each day. This program tries to fill that need when schools are on their summer break.
State officials said that last summer about 74,000 students got this help. They said that volunteers could help fight their biggest challenge, which is transportation.
"We do need to be able to have either the option of taking the children to where the food is being offered or having the food taken to where the children are," said Ervin.
Officials said they can never really have too many volunteers because some may not be able to make it everyday.
"This is a perfect opportunity for High Schoolers that need volunteer hours. There may be a role for organizations looking to do service projects," said Ervin.
At The Ministry, the students who volunteer are not only giving back, they're gaining job training.
"It just showed me responsibility, hard work ethic, and I can do whatever I put my mind to," said Williams.
To find a meal site near you, text FoodNC at 877877. You will get a return message with sites within a five-mile radius. You can also visit http://nc.nokidhungry.org. You can also find information about volunteering here.