CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Hunger is a major issue for some Virginia children. According to No Kid Hungry Virginia, one in 10 Virginia children is struggling with hunger. There is a team in each district that works year-round to feed students.

Larry Wade’s passion for cooking and food led him to Chesapeake Public Schools, where he is the director of school nutrition.

He overseas a large team and operations for the district. His main priority is to ensure children are fed.

“School nutrition is important to the education mission,” said Wade. “A hungry child cannot learn.”

About 40,000 students attend school in Chesapeake. The budget of $15 million is used to order food, pay salaries, and account for other operating costs. Wade says it is very similar to running 45 different restaurants. 

“Here at central office, we are making sure everything is running smoothly, that the frame and the blueprint is in place,” Wade said. “Then we work with the staff in the buildings to make sure the food served meets compliance standards, healthy and nutritious meals that are planned with great concern”

The department has its share of challenges, such as supply chain issues due to the pandemic to filling vacancies.

Wade remains optimistic.

“Here in school nutrition we are about 140 team members short,” Wade said. “We want the public to know that even with staff shortages we are still committed to serving healthy meals to those that come through our line.” 

The districts strives to respond to the evolving needs of students. Children are offered breakfast, lunch, snacks, and sometimes supper. Dieticians use high quality produce and foods from popular brands to craft each menu — meeting needs of varying ages and even allergies.