CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — In a warehouse in Catawba County, hundreds of meals are bagged and packed so children don't have to go hungry over the weekend. 


What You Need To Know

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture passed nationwide waivers to allow schools to serve students breakfast and lunch without collecting payment

Schools have been able to provide free lunch to students without parents filling out any applications for the past two years

The waiver from the USDA is expiring June 30 without congressional input

For the 2022-23 school year, parents will have to apply for free or reduced lunch for their children


"Currently we are serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for 800 children for Friday through Sunday," said Amanda Newton, who is the Backpack Program coordinator. 

Newton was a social worker for Catawba County for several years. She wanted to give back to her community on a more intimate level and was hired the the Corner Table, the organization which the Backpack program is under. 

"I started here almost a year ago, and I couldn't see myself anywhere else," Newton said. 

The program serves 44 schools in Catawba County and one school in Alexander County. 

“Some of our numbers did go down at one point, because of all the assistance that was provided to families in the community, but we do know that is decreasing and so we anticipate our numbers to go back up this fall actually," Newton said. 

Another factor adding to the possible increase in students needing assistance is the end of universal free school lunches. 

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, a waiver from the USDA allowed schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to students without parents having to apply. 

Without congressional input, the waiver is set to expire June 30.

“The ending of that will be a huge impact for the increase in bags that we will start providing," Newton said.

Free and reduced lunch will still be available for the 2022-23 school year, but parents will have to apply. 

With her years of experience in social work, Newton asks parents to reach out to school counselors for assistance. 

“Put your pride aside and reach out because there are so many communities out here in this area that want to help, take advantage of those situations to get back on your feet," Newton said.