In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the local Food For The Summer program has stepped up to feed students year-round after school closures on March 13.

Since mid-March, the expanded program, now named Food For Students, has utilized USDA funds, private donations and community volunteer support to provide hundreds of thousands of meals at 37 distribution sites.

For the last nine months, Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s Food For Students has given away hundreds of thousands of meals to students and families in need.

Christine Cotton is the co-founder of PORCH and has been an active member of the district’s Food For Students program since the pandemic began.

“That first day in March, the students never missed a meal,” Cotton said. “I’m just honored that every day I get to work with the child nutrition team, the transportation team and volunteers. To me, those are the heroes of this whole operation.”

Cotton said the impact Food For Students has on the community has been “absolutely incredible.” This year, the program added 17 meal distribution sites to better serve its students year-round.

“To see students who would come out and pick up their own meals, older students come and pick up for their siblings, parents come out – these folks are holding themselves together,” Cotton said. “It’s a whole family effort which then makes it a whole community effort. It’s just been wonderful doing it day in and day out for nine months.”

After their latest meal distribution on December 21, Food For Students has provided more than 900,000 meals. This December, Cotton said Food For Students distributed enough meals to help families get through the two weeks of winter break.

“It’s a crazy number but it’s also a wonderful number,” Cotton said. “It’s breakfast, lunch, snack, fresh produce. So much goes into that.”

As we move into the New Year, Cotton said there is still more work to be done as Chapel-Hill Carrboro City Schools continue with remote learning.

“This is not the end,” Cotton said. “This is a break. We’ll take this winter break and then we are planning to come back January 5 and go at it until school is back 100 percent. We don’t know when that will be, but we’re there to make sure our students are fed and as happy as they can be until then.”

Residents wanting to support the Food For Students program are encouraged to make donations through the Public School Foundation. Click here to find out more.

Lead photo via the Town of Chapel Hill. does not charge subscription fees. You can support local journalism and our mission to serve the community. Contribute today – every single dollar matters.