When the summer heat (finally!) starts to break, that means one thing in North Carolina: Back to School.

In the hunger relief world, we know that’s a good thing. Nearly 300,000 children in our 34-county service area rely on the free and reduced-cost meals at school to get them through the day. But the excitement of back to school shopping is not an option for households already making tough choices between food and utilities, or food and medical care.

That’s why the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina is proud to team up with community partners who go the extra mile to help ensure NC kids have the food – and supplies – they need to succeed in school.

Covenant Life Church

Back 2 School Bash at Covenant Life Church in Cary

Back 2 School Bash at Covenant Life Church in Cary

Covenant Life Church in Cary has an annual Back 2 School Bash. The group has an ongoing relationship with the Food Bank, picking up food from our warehouse monthly to distribute to lower income clients, many of whom have unstable housing. Their Back 2 School Bash helps families get off to a great start to the school year by giving out school supplies, backpacks, and clothing, in addition to groceries. Food Bank CENC joins in by providing the food.

“We host a back to school bash every year, so that people in the community can come and celebrate going back to school,” said Benevolence Director Lexi Meyer. “We serve food at the event and we also give them food bags to take home, with groceries, to get the year started off right. We were able to give out fresh watermelon, and fruit, and some vegetables that we got from the Food Bank that day – which was really nice. We had about 600 people come through.”

NC A. Philip Randolph Institute

NC A. Philip Randolph Institute's book bag giveaway

NC A. Philip Randolph Institute’s book bag giveaway

North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute (aka Mary’s Pantry) is another pantry we provide food for year-round, that has begun doing more for back to school season. They serve NC State students, the homeless community, and many families, and have expanded their services from food to include book bags and school supplies.

Families (who had received monthly groceries the week before) brought their kids back for a special day of back to school shopping. Just like other classmates, the children selected the book bag they want, and picked up items on their school supplies list. Hot dogs and refreshments (courtesy of Food Bank CENC) were also served, truly making it a special event for families.

“We gave out 40 book bags,” said President Mary Montford. “And also basic supplies like pencils, ink pens, glue sticks, you name it the whole gamut. The kids were smiling and so happy.”

Mr. Fred’s Food Pantry at the Lake

When back to school expenses fall on family budgets that are already stretched thin, it can lead to difficult decisions. Louise Craig-Rorie runs the food pantry at Lakeview Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, called Mr. Fred’s Food Pantry at the Lake. She has seen first-hand the relief parents feel when getting some help with food means they won’t have to choose between groceries or school supplies.

“A mom came to the pantry and said, ‘Thank you. I can buy shoes for my daughter so she can go back to school because you have food that can help me,'” recalls Louise. “No one should have to make that choice between buying shoes for her kids and giving them food. She said they have never had new shoes to go back to school with. This is the first year they can because of the food pantry.”


A big thank you to all the generous hearts in our community for taking care of kids’ needs, above and beyond hunger!