DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Governor Roy Cooper announced more funding for school meals while serving breakfast to students in Durham this morning.
The free breakfasts available daily at Glenn Elementary School are appreciated by all who receive them.
The students come to class, grab a bag containing fruit, cereal and milk, then eat in the classroom while catching up on their studies.
Governor Cooper said this arrangement also gives children additional instruction time, which is a plus for schools like Glenn Elementary with more low income and high-risk students.
He says the new funding comes from federal COVID money that's unspent.
Money that governors can use at their discretion for investments in education.
"And we're going to encourage more of it. This program is going to provide $1.4 million that will be distributed through competitive grants for up to $50,000 for each school district to help supplement what they are doing. And hopefully it can get more school systems and schools involved in this program," he said.
More than 60% of Durham students get free or reduced cost meals.
The school district carries a student meal debt of about $300,000.
The statewide figure skyrocketed last year. From $1.3 million at the start of November to $3.1 million by the end of 2022.
This school year, the general assembly's covering the reduced price co-pay.
Advocates hope lawmakers go a step further, by funding free breakfasts and lunches for all students.
"At the end of the school year, that middle debt that's been uncollected goes back to the district and there could be things like a teaching assistant position that can't be funded because of this field debt," said Andrew Harrell with Carolina Hunger Initiative.