North Rowan Elementary School offers summer camp, meals

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 19, 2018

SPENCER — After a longtime site for Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ Summer Meals Program closed in Spencer, North Rowan Elementary School Principal Katherine Bryant stepped up to the plate.

For years, Central United Methodist Church operated as the only Summer Meals site in Spencer. This year, the church was unable to continue because of a reported lack of volunteers.

“They no longer could do that,” Bryant said, “so I was concerned how my kids were going to get food during the summer.”

Instead, North Rowan Elementary will fill the void for seven weeks this summer.

Roughly 93 percent of students at North Rowan Elementary qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, Bryant said — a full 30 percent higher than the district average of 63 percent. That qualifies the school for a grant-funded universal meals program during the school year.

“So every child eats free during the school year,” she said.

A partnership with nonprofit Engage North Rowan means that two Tuesdays a month, families can come by for a free dinner.

“We recognize we are a food-needy area where we need to help some of our families,” Bryant said.

The school even runs its own food pantry. But during the summer, many students don’t have access to enough food.

With a little bit of strategizing, North Rowan Elementary has expanded its usual three-week summer camp to cover seven weeks. Bryant said the school drew inspiration from Granite Quarry Elementary, which runs a lunch site and learning program on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Camps will run Tuesdays through Thursdays beginning June 26 and ending Aug. 16. There will be no camp the week of July 4.

While students were invited to pre-register before school let out for the summer, Bryant said any child between 3 and 18 is welcome to drop in. The Summer Meals Program is funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture grants, and meals are provided only to children 18 and younger. Meals must be consumed on site under adult supervision.

Most meal sites are drop-in only, but the help of community partnerships, North Rowan Elementary is able to offer transportation for local students and families.

Bryant credits the school’s strong relationship with the community and area churches for this opportunity. When she realized the school would need to offer transportation, she reached out — and Life Church of Salisbury reached back.

“It just evolved like that,” she said.

Bryant estimates it would cost roughly $2,600 to cover a full-time bus driver and mileage for the duration of the program. Life Church agreed to cover roughly half of the cost and also asked the Spencer Board of Aldermen if it would be willing to partner. Last Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to cover the remaining cost.

Bryant said she was “shocked and delighted” by the move.

“Our aldermen are so supportive of our schools,” she said.

Transportation will run from five local hubs. Bryant said she’s made it clear to families that an adult must be present when students are dropped off and picked up.

“We won’t drop off a child if an adult is not accounted for,” she said.

Once at the school, students will study math, reading and science and participate in fun activities before being fed lunch.

“This isn’t necessarily technology; this is going to be very hands-on,” Bryant said.

Students will also receive free books at the end of some lessons.

Bryant said she is excited about the camp, and proud of her community for stepping up to fill a need.

“It takes a village to raise a child, and Spencer clearly shows that we have that community to help our students,” she said.

The Post reached out to Life Church for comment but did not receive a response by press time.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.