RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Food insecurity is affecting many children across the state and its impacting their ability to learn.
It's something Marianne Weant has seen in her children's classrooms. Four of her six children attend Wake County Public Schools.
"Any mom will tell you they've seen kids who can't focus and are hungry or hangry," said Weant.
The Cary mom has no trouble covering the cost of their breakfast and lunch, but her heart goes out to families that do.
"We know kids that are well fed and kids that eat breakfast and lunch at school. They show up to school more. They show up to school on time. They have fewer behavioral issues," she said.
Data shows there's a number of students across the state receiving free and reduced lunch.
In Wake County, 39,208 students receive free and reduced lunch. In Durham County, that number is 17,353.
"One in six kids in school are hungry. That number is one in three in rural communities," said Joshua Chitalo with Mt. Carmel HELPS Inc.
Chitalo and Weant are lobbying lawmakers at the Capitol by urging them to pass a bill this legislative session providing free meals for all students statewide. They've even placed paper placemats at tables in the NC General Assembly cafeteria. They believe funding this program reduces poor health outcomes.
"It's a costly program, but the cost of bad health. The cost of kids dropping out of school because of food. The impact of parents having stress because they can't afford to buy lunches," Chitalo said.
It's something Weant said could be prevented if lawmakers prioritize free universal school meals. Other states like California, Colorado and Maine have already implemented free meals statewide for all students. Advocates are hoping North Carolina will be next.
"We want them to be productive citizens. They need to be fed to do that. They need to be prepared to learn and they need to be prepared to face their day," she said.