Columbia, SC (WLTX) - While it may sound contradictory, education officials will tell you that both childhood obesity and hunger are problems in our schools. Kids in Richland School District One are now getting help with both in their after-school programs with a free, healthy dinner.
In the district, 73% of students are in the free or reduced lunch program. And even those who aren't are starting their day at 6 a.m., which means a normal dinner time is long after when they're ready for a meal. Thanks to a federally funded program, they're getting a hot, healthy dinner and learning about good food choices as well.
"We just really want to make sure that we address the issue of youth obesity, address the issue of hunger in our community, and make sure that we do all that we can do to make sure our children's needs are being met," explains Traci Young-Cooper, with the district.
Earlier this month, they added dinner to their after-school programs to do that. Everyday, kids at Greenview Elementary and 42 other schools are filling up on the right foods for free. "That consists of a protein, a protein alternate, a vegetable, a fruit, a bread and a beverage," says Cooper of the meal, "We, as educators, view it as a teaching tool because we're introducing them to better lifestyles, better living, how to select and make better meal choices."
They've gotten some rave reviews so far and parents seem to be into it too. "They appreciate working their full day, picking their children up from an after school program and their children's basic needs already being met," says Cooper, "Just this week alone, we served 14,000 evening meals to our after-school program students. And we serve about 14,000 lunches a day in our regular day program. So those statistics demonstrate a dire need to continue to have a meal program such as this to make sure that students are healthy, and that they're stimulated and that they're motivated and that their basic needs - hunger is a basic need - we want to make sure that that's met each and every day."
And just in case you were wondering, Wednesday's meal was turkey noodle soup, Thursday is chicken quesadilla pizza, followed by sausage lasagna on friday.