Atrium Health Hosts Free Summer-Long Nutrition Program for Children

06.19.2018 Atrium Health News | Levine Children's | Children's Health | Atrium Health University City News

Carolinas HealthCare System University will serve as first hospital in the state to host 'Kids Eat Free' program

CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 20, 2018 - Atrium Health is participating in North Carolina Summer Nutrition Programs by hosting a 'Kids Eat Free' program, in partnership with Sodexo, at Atrium Health's Carolinas HealthCare System University, through August 24, 2018. N.C. Summer Nutrition Programs are administered by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, School Nutrition Services Section, with federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to ensure students do not go hungry when school is not in session by providing a free, nutritious breakfast and lunch for children 18 years and under.

During the school year, many students rely on the nutritious meals served through the School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program and Afterschool Meals Program. However, meals are still needed for children across the state during the summer months. Last summer, N.C. Summer Nutrition Programs served more than 5.2 million meals to children and teens, but only 12 out of every 100 public school students eligible for the program received these meals. Raising awareness and working with community stakeholders are key to ensuring all kids who need summer meals can utilize these vital programs.

"Kids Eat Free is one of the ways Atrium Health is working to address food insecurity," said Alisahah Cole, MD, vice president and system medical director for Community Health at Atrium Health. "By working with community and state partners to ensure kids have access to well-balanced, nutritious meals during the summer, we are extending an opportunity to better more lives, and bring health, hope and healing for all."

With the 'Kids Eat Free' program, children are invited to eat breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the CHS University cafeteria Mondays through Fridays. Students can choose from a variety of menu offerings in the cafeteria each day, including protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free milk, to build a balanced, nutritious meal.

The 'Kids Eat Free' program at CHS University will provide not only nourishment but also educational enrichment. Students will enjoy a healthy meal along with:

  • Crafts and activities provided by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte
  • Nutrition education provided by Atrium Health
  • · Literacy and STEM activities on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
  • Farmer's market cooking demonstrations on Thursdays
  • Reading activities with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department
  • The chance to hand-deliver "Get Well" cards to CHS University patients alongside Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers
  • The opportunity to learn about and help with planting, caring for and harvesting fruits and vegetables in the hospital garden. Produce from the garden is donated to a local food pantry.

"We hope that the Kids Eat Free program at Atrium Health will inspire other hospitals across the state to offer a North Carolina Summer Nutrition Program," said Cynthia Ervin, N.C. Summer Nutrition Programs manager. "By supporting programs that provide balanced meals throughout the summer, we are helping to keep North Carolina's children on the path to success. Proper nutrition promotes optimal growth and development in children and therefore plays an important role in improving education outcomes."

To recognize Atrium Health for serving as the first hospital to participate in the N.C. Summer Nutrition Program, a special kickoff event will be held on Friday, June 22 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at CHS University, located at 8800 North Tryon Street. The kickoff event will provide the community the opportunity to experience the summer program, along with a cooking demonstration by the East Mecklenburg High N.C. Junior Chef Competition finalist team and a visit from Ray F. Sun, the N.C. Summer Nutrition Program mascot.

"Hunger pains are real and far too numerous," said Elaine Jones, RDN, LDN, clinical nutrition manager with Atrium Health. "We all have the ability, opportunity and obligation to end hunger by making food available to our youth. With the Kids Eat Free program at CHS University, we are eliminating hunger one meal and one child at a time. We have established a community effort here that will lift up our youth by providing the opportunity to eat, maintain reading skills and stay physically active."

About Atrium Health

Atrium Health (, one of the nation's leading and most innovative healthcare organizations, provides a full spectrum of healthcare and wellness programs throughout North and South Carolina. Its diverse network of care locations includes academic medical centers, hospitals, freestanding emergency departments, physician practices, surgical and rehabilitation centers, home health agencies, nursing homes and behavioral health centers, as well as hospice and palliative care services. Atrium Health works to enhance the overall health and wellbeing of its communities through high quality patient care, education and research programs, and numerous collaborative partnerships and initiatives.

About N.C. Summer Nutrition Programs

N.C. Summer Nutrition Programs serve meals at no cost to children and teens, ages 18 and younger, at over 3,000 locations across the state. USDA's Food and Nutrition Services provides the Summer Nutrition Programs Site Locator Map, which allows families to identify the nearest site for summer meals, including information about locations, meal types, and times and driving directions. Families also can call 1-866-348-6479 for English or 1-877-842-6273 for Spanish to access this information. On social media, families can also follow #NCSummerMeals for updates. The student-designed mascot Ray is making appearances across the state to help promote the state's Summer Nutrition Programs. Ray's middle initial, "F," stands for food, fitness and fun - all things offered by Summer Nutrition Programs to ensure students return to school healthy, fit and ready to learn. Follow @Ray4NCKids to find out where the N.C. Summer Nutrition Programs mascot Ray F. Sun will be next.

About No Kid Hungry North Carolina

No Kid Hungry North Carolina, a Summer Nutrition Program partner, provides resources ( and marketing support to help expand access to under-utilized federal nutrition programs for North Carolina children. The national No Kid Hungry team sponsors a text message resource; mobile phone users may text "Food NC" for English or "COMIDA" for Spanish to 877-877 and receive up-to-date meal site location information. (Standard text messaging rates apply.)