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In South King County, where nearly 42,000 students are enrolled in the federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program (more than twice the amount enrolled in Seattle and more than three times as in East and North King County), students are at risk of going to bed hungry. “It was obvious that, for some of [the students we worked with in our CSC programs], the snack they ate in our afterschool program was the last food they would eat until they came to school the following morning…when I learned that we could potentially provide a hot meal in our afterschool program instead of just a snack, I was very excited” said Ron Asher, reflecting on his time working with youth in CSC. As a community school, CSC works to ensure that all children and youth are healthy and ready to learn. Access to healthy meals are an essential piece of health that is often impacted by poverty.
Asher, who was overseeing CSC health programs, was approached by the Human Services Directors in the cities of SeaTac and Tukwila to attend an informational meeting about the At-Risk Afterschool MEALS Program in Washington State. “Food insecurity and childhood hunger are issues I have been aware of and concerned about since my time running an afterschool program at Tukwila Elementary” says Asher.
Quickly after learning about the afterschool meals program, Asher met with Chris Neal, the Director of Nutrition Services at Highline Public Schools, who was 100% committed to seeing it happen. “I felt it was important to transition our afterschool snacks program which offers two food items (meal components) to a full meal including five components: a protein, a grain, a fruit and/or vegetable and milk” say Neal. With the various requirements of the At-Risk Afterschool MEALS Program, it was essential for Highline Public Schools and Community Schools Collaboration to partner in the effort.
In the spring of 2012 a pilot aftershool meal program was facilitated at Madrona Elementary School with great success. This school year afterschool meals have begun at Madrona Elementary, Bow Lake Elementary, White Center Heights Elementary, Mount View Elementary and Chinook Middle School. “It’s been rewarding to hear about the success of the program and to see the benefits that it brings to our students who may not have a meal when they go home afterschool. I appreciate the hard work and dedication of the nutrition services staff and that of CSC personnel in each of the schools who have made this meal program become a reality” says Neal. Soon the afterschool meals program will be expanded to be offered at all of the schools in Highline School District with CSC programs, ensuring that hundreds of students will be guaranteed to have a third meal during the week.
Learn more: CSC Impact Info -- Afterschool MEALS