In September the Baldwin County Board of Education approved an application to be sent off for a federal grant that would allow the Baldwin County School District (BCSD) to begin offering free meals to the 700 students participating in its after-school programs.
BCSD announced Monday that the application was approved and after-school meals are already being served this week after school nutrition staff spent the last few months implementing a plan so the program could kick off immediately following federal approval.
For now, the program is being referred to locally as the “evening meal service.”
“Currently, all of our after-school students receive a light snack each day as part of the after-school program, but for many of our students, it’s just not enough,” BCSD nutrition director Susan Nelson said in a press release. “This evening meal service, combined with other things like our summer meals program, shows that we are doing everything we can to tackle the problem of childhood hunger here in our community.”
Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning distributes the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) funds to qualifying organizations around the state. CACFP provides reimbursement for meals served in childcare centers, family childcare homes, emergency/homeless shelters and, in Baldwin County’s case, after-school programs.
The operation will be similar to that of the school district’s popular summer meal program, which distributed 48,000 free meals to local kids throughout June and July. After-school meals are prepared in the Oak Hill Middle School kitchen and transported to the various after-school programs. The summer meal program is based each year out of the Baldwin High School kitchen. The middle school was selected due to its large amount of available storage space. The new meal program will operate Monday through Thursday.
Nelson told board members back at their September work session that hungry students should not be the only ones excited about the program. More meals means more hours for some of the school district’s nutrition staff.
The press release touting the new local after-school meal offering also says that the school district is using this program as a first step toward possibly expanding the after-school meal service to all students in the district, regardless of whether or not they participate in an after-school program.
“Hunger is a barrier to our students’ overall success and this new dinner program will help us to remove it,” said Superintendent Dr. Noris Price. “Access to nutritious meals is a major obstacle for many of our families, and this is another way that we are doing all that we can to ensure that our students have the nutrition they need to learn and thrive.”