July 19, 2023

Toby Hedgepeth Mother, HR Consultant, Pastor

I have experienced hunger before and understand the struggle of going without a meal. As a result of my childhood experiences, I am constantly aware that some children don’t have access to a hot meal, and sometimes school is their only source of nourishment for their growing bodies and minds. Therefore, it should be easy for our legislators to provide school meals essential for children’s well-being. I want our legislators to ask themselves: if we do nothing, what will the consequences be in the next few years? However, even considering this question over a few years is a position of privilege because the children who are unfed due to overwhelming school meal debt do not have that luxury. Feeding America reports that food insecurity leads to various adverse social and health outcomes and is a critical public health issue.

Our public schools, where children spend their formative years and where we expect them to attend and succeed in classes, perpetuate food insecurity and contribute to a national public health crisis. If we truly value our children, we can change this situation by saying yes. If you genuinely care about the lives of children, you must agree to eliminate school meal debt that burdens families already struggling with things we don’t have to worry about. Furthermore, it would be best if you took it further by implementing a universal school meals program that supports all North Carolina Public Schools students.

Thankfully, you won’t have to worry about your child feeling ashamed of going through the school lunch line because they’ve accumulated over $100 in debt. One day, my 12-year-old son came home from school and told me I would notice a small additional expense on his lunch account. He had paid for a classmate’s lunch because the classmate was embarrassed to go through the line. If my son, a young man of 12, can recognize this need, so can you. Imagine the relief that will come when the State of North Carolina can proudly announce to its citizens that all children are fed for free if they send them to school. It is possible and North Carolina has the resources to do it.  

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