By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Edgecombe County Public Schools (ECPS) offers up a hot breakfast and lunch to children in the summer months.
“A lot of our kids go hungry in the summertime. Our job is to feed hungry kids,” said Ruth McDowell, child nutrition director for ECPS. The population of ECPS students on free and reduced lunch is approximately 80 percent, said McDowell, and those students need good nutrition in the summertime to set them up for optimal learning for the upcoming school year.
“We offer healthy food, so they’re not eating a lot of junk food,” she said. “One thing new that we decided to do this summer is to offer fresh fruit. That’s one of the ways that ECPS is promoting eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.”
ECPS has 31 sites for the federally funded food service program this summer, feeding 1,000 children lunch and 700 children breakfast daily. That’s an increase from last year, when the district had 28 sites, said McDowell.
Breakfast is served from 8 until 9 a.m. and lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The usual 25 or so children ate lunch at the W.A. Pattillo site Wednesday, along with a group of more than 50 children from the Edgecombe Extra Technology Camp.
“They got their favorite food today – chicken nuggets,” said Jackie Sharpe, child nutrition manager at Pattillo. Also on the menu were green peas, mashed potatoes and fruit.
“It’s a nutritious hot meal from all food groups,” Sharpe said. She said all children from birth to age 18 could walk in the door of the school Monday through Thursday and eat a free meal.
“It’s a great opportunity to come down here and have this food for children in the neighborhood. I definitely enjoy coming down here,” said Tamyra Deloatch. “For some kids, this might be the only food they have this summer.”
Deloatch’s son, 4-year-old Kamari Tucker, enjoyed a fruit cup at lunch Wednesday. Tucker likes fruit, but said his favorite food served at the school is pizza.
Raequan Clark, 13, eats lunch at Pattillo every day. He plays football and the healthy food he eats gives him nourishment.
“It keeps you strong,” said Clark.
At the next cafeteria table, Jykevius Western, 11, peeled an orange, his favorite fruit.
“It’s good for us to eat,” said Western.
Along with Pattillo, Princeville Elementary, West Edgecombe Middle, Phillips Middle, and G.W. Carver Elementary are school sites for the summer feeding program. The program also offers take-out meals to organizations serving children in the county, among them J and K Summer Camp in Tarboro.
“We have a lot of children that come in the morning that are looking for breakfast. They’re excited about it,” said Kim Battle, assistant director for J and K Summer Camp. “They’re getting a balanced meal. It’s nutritious and they like it.”
Battle said she sees the importance of the nutritional breakfast provided by the summer feeding program; noting that some of her campers bringing chips or candy for breakfast.
The summer feeding program ends Aug. 8. For more information, call McDowell at 641-2636.