USDA helps Clover Park district serve up after-school meals

Staff writerDecember 17, 2013 

There’s a new incentive to stay after school in more than a dozen Lakewood schools: an after-school meal.

Along with afternoon activities and enrichment, the Clover Park School District has launched a meal program for students in high-poverty schools.

“We used to provide students with a small snack,” said Kevin Scott, director of student nutrition for the school district.

But in September, Clover Park expanded to a more substantial menu so that kids would be well-fueled for the activities after school.

The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care food program, a sibling of USDA’s school lunch program.

Meals must meet federal nutritional requirements. Hot entrees are not served. Students typically receive a sandwich or wrap, fruit, vegetable and individual carton of milk.

On the menu one afternoon last week at Dower Elementary School: bologna sandwich, applesauce, milk and carrots.

So far this year, Clover Park has served 11,864 after-school meals prepared by school district nutrition staff, according to Scott.

He said some Clover Park schools have been offering the program since the start of the school year. Others will begin soon.

Some refer to it as a “dinner program,” though it might be more aptly described as a late-afternoon meal — a way to enhance nutrition, reduce hunger and sustain kids through after-school activities.

Adele Roberts, state supervisor for the parent USDA program, said officials don’t assume they’re providing a replacement for the evening meal at home.

“We are not trying to take away from the family,” she said.

Roberts said many schools have offered after-school snacks for several years. But new federal legislation helped expand the program, and it’s slowly growing.

Clover Park is the first school district in Pierce County to offer the USDA after-school meals, she said. The federal government reimburses schools just over $3 for each meal served.

To be eligible, schools must have a population of at least 50 percent of students who qualify for free- or reduced-price school lunches. In addition, schools must offer enrichment activities — games, crafts, computers, choir.

“It’s fun to read,” said second-grader Reign Gipson, one of 62 students enrolled in the twice-a-week after-school program at Dower Elementary.

Added second-grader Masiya Dunn: “We get lunch, and we get to read a lot.”

At Dower, students begin their afternoon with academics. There is reading and math enrichment for first- and second-graders, and science club for the school’s older students. Each Tuesday and Thursday, programs start after school lets out at 2:30 p.m.

Second-graders worked on a recent afternoon with teacher Anita Bruscas. The kids seemed eager to learn, matching sentences and pictures in their phonics workbooks.

They worked until just after 3 p.m., then it was time for a break — and a meal. After they ate, students headed for math lessons. The program runs until 4 p.m.

In addition, Metro Parks this month launched a new USDA-funded program in Tacoma that includes after-school meals for kids. It’s operating in two Tacoma community centers: Peoples Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and the Portland Avenue Community Center.

In addition to school-based after-school meals, USDA also funds meal programs in high-poverty neighborhoods. Kids at the two community centers get a meal prepared by Subway, which has a contract with the parks program to provide the food.

The drop-in Tacoma program also has an estimated $40,000 in funding from the National League of Cities to help pay for staffing. Activities for kids ages 4 through 17 include homework help, arts and crafts, and games. Meals are served from 3:30-4:30 p.m., followed by enrichment activities from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Video on the web

For video of Clover Park School District’s after-school meal program, visit thenews Meal sites

These schools either participate in or plan to soon join the Clover Park School District’s after-school meal program:

Beachwood, Carter Lake, Custer, Dower, Evergreen, Greenwood, Harrison Prep, Hillside, Lake Louise, Lakeview, Lochburn, Oakwood, Park Lodge, Southgate, Tillicum and Tyee Park.

In Tacoma, two new after-school meal and activity programs are at Peoples Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Way and the Portland Avenue Community Center.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635 debbie.cafazzo@t @DebbieCafazzo

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