Schools address nutrition needs of students who attend virtual classes

Posted July 29, 2020 6:15 a.m. EDT
Updated July 29, 2020 3:44 p.m. EDT

— With more students now ready for the option of remote learning, a new concern emerges: nutrition. Without cafeteria meals, some school systems now bring meals to the students.

Last March, when coronavirus shutdowns were imminent, Chapel-Hill/Carrboro City Schools took action. "We were the first school system in the state to announce that we were going to move to online learning," said public information officer Jeff Nash.

Without cafeteria meals, school system leaders organized a school bus meal delivery program. The effort included school staff, volunteers and local faith leaders delivering free food to families at 20 sites.

Nash says, "We are now at 37 sites. We have delivered over 450,000 meals. We’re almost at the half million mark."

Those meals include the priorities of the state’s school lunch program to maximize nutrition for learning. UNC Rex Healthcare dietitian Shelly Wegman says access to proteins like meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils are important.

"It’s essential for building muscle, repairing cells and building the body," said Wegman.

Healthy carbohydrates like whole grains, fruit, brown rice and potatoes are just as important, especially for young minds. "Because that’s your brain fuel right there. Carbohydrates are the brain fuel," said Wegman.

She says parents don’t have to spend all their time preparing meals while their children study online at home. She suggests keeping items like boiled eggs, fruit cups, cut-up vegetables and string cheese available."You just want them to have things that they can grab, nibble on here and nibble on there," said Wegman.

Nash understands that it’s not enough just to deliver nutritious meals to students and their families who need the assistance. "But also teaching them about making healthy food choices. That carries on long after they’re out of our schools," said Nash.

Nash says on Fridays the school system provides extra meals to last families through the weekend. The effort will continue as needed. "Regardless of when we get back to school, we’re going to make sure that our kids eat," he said.

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