Iberville schools considering meals for students in after school activities
“I know kids are not getting fed at night. A lot of these kids are going home from school hungry after they’re done with football practice or whatever. When we started looking at the poverty rate in the parish, it’s very touching.” Brian willis, Iberville Parish School Board member
Some Iberville Parish students soon could get another meal during the day if school officials are successful at implementing a federally funded At-Risk After School Meals Program geared toward feeding kids who participate in after-school activities.
The school district’s interest in giving kids a third meal each day is driven by School Board member Brian Willis who has been pushing the district for six months to start the program because he said a significant percentage of the parish’s students are not getting enough to eat and are impoverished.
“I know kids are not getting fed at night,” Willis said. “A lot of these kids are going home from school hungry after they’re done with football practice or whatever. When we started looking at the poverty rate in the parish, it’s very touching.”
Willis said he learned of the after-school meals program from a family member who works in the West Baton Rouge Parish school system, which is in the first year of its own program.
The At-Risk After School meals program is a component of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program. The program offers school districts monthly reimbursements if they serve after school meals or snacks to children in low-income areas.
To qualify, school districts must provide after school care for students throughout the regular school year, conduct regularly scheduled after school extracurricular activities — like sports or academic groups — that include some kind of educational enrichment, and the district must be located in an area where at least 50 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced priced lunch meals.
Nearly 85 percent of the children in Iberville Parish eat free or reduced priced lunch meals and 17.9 percent of the families living in the parish between 2007-2011 were impoverished, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.
The USDA requires that meals served through the after-school program must include at least 2 ounces of meat, bread, a serving of fruits or vegetables and a half-pint of milk.
Vivian Landry, consultant for West Baton Rouge Parish’s Food Services Department, said eight out of the 10 schools in the district offer the after school meals programs to students. In September, more than 13,000 children were fed through the program at a cost of about $10,000.
“It’s going great,” Landry said. “There were some kinks we had to work out. At first, we were worried we’d have to make the cafeteria work overtime to do this, but when it became apparent that we didn’t, we met with our coaches and trained the people who work with our kids after school on what are reimbursable meals.”
Landry said the West Baton Rouge students are mostly served brown-bag lunches containing pre-packaged foods and lots of fresh fruits, which were a challenge to find when their program was in the planning stages.
“Our kids were hungry; these kids are active,” she said. “That’s why we looked for something we could do for them.”
Iberville’s Food Service Supervisor Paula Warner said the school district is gathering information to apply for the program and trying to figure out the logistics of making it work at their schools. A tentative start date hasn’t even been determined, she added.
“We’ll need to have some internal meetings here first to chart our course,” she said.