558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Popular free dinner program at local schools could be nearing its end
In spite of its popularity, principals report that families need to be more vigilant about filling out the required paperwork
Students of the Crook County Kids Club are treated to a McDonald’s meal on Fridays, as part of the Snack and Supper Program through Oregon Department of Education. Students get a snack and a hot supper meal each day after school.
January 14, 2013
Students in four after-school programs in Prineville have been able to enjoy free hot suppers on weekdays each school day this year.
The biggest concern that could put the program at risk for next year is the fact that families are not filling out the free and reduced paperwork, so the free and reduced percentages are much lower than they realistically should be.
“For example, last year we had 77 percent of our students on free or reduced lunches,” explained Crooked River Principal Cheri Rasmussen. “This year we have 62 percent, and I do not feel this is an accurate percentage of students who truly qualify.”
Crook County Middle School Principal Stacy Smith commented that the middle school is having similar issues. The parents who have students that normally are on the free and reduced program are not filling out the free and reduced applications. They are concerned that if the percentage does not hit the 65 percent mark this school year, then next year they will be back on a paid lunch program. Right now they are currently 59.5 percent free and reduced.
“This is a new program to Crook County Schools, and it is run from a different department through Oregon Department of Education,” explained CCSD Nutrition Manager Leanne Kaiser. “It comes out of the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program. It is an after-school snack and supper program.”
She noted that the big difference in the snack and supper program is that it doesn’t have anything to do with the national school breakfast and lunch programs. Kaiser said that these programs are made available to nursing homes, caregiver homes, and child care programs. They are not necessarily affiliated with schools only — although the program that is being administered in Crook County includes the After The Bell program at Crooked River, a math tutoring program at Ochoco Elementary, the Kids Club at Cecil Sly, and a program at Crook County High School.
All of these are after-school programs, and one of the requirements is that they have an educational component. The other requirement is that 50 percent or more of the participants qualify for free-and-reduced eligibility at the site.
“We started this week at Ochoco Elementary,” said Kaiser. She added that the program at CCHS is also a relatively new program.
All the students are enrolled in the program — rather than it being a “drop-in” program for meals. Kaiser said that the reason that she wanted to bring this program in, rather than just a snack program, was because many of the after-school activities go into the early evening.
“We are able, through this program, to actually feed them a hot supper.”
She said they offer items like hot ham and cheese, pizza, burritos, and some cold sides to accompany the hot dishes. On Fridays, The Kids Club is treated to a McDonalds Meal, courtesy of the local McDonalds.
“The after school snack program has been positive in all aspects,” said Crooked River Elementary Principal Cheri Rasmussen. “Students who might not get a balanced meal (or any meal at all) at home in the evening are benefiting. The After the Bell staff is doing an excellent job of serving and cleaning up after themselves. The revenue from the supplemental government program is a help to our district financially.”
Cecil Sly Principal Jim Bates commented that Crook County’s free and reduced percentages, based on the income challenges in town, indicates that the local community is one of high need and shows in the kids’ need for clothing and supplies.
“The program is designed to create a foundation for kids to have a strong start to their day, and I believe it is working handsomely,” he added. “They have some really nice choices. They get a snack to carry them through, and they also have a light supper. They get two opportunities for some food intake, to hold them through until dinnertime. Kids are always burning through food. Between the two programs, I am really content to see what we are able to offer the kids.”
In addition to the snack and supper program, Crook County also offered a free lunch program this school year, including students in all three elementary schools and the Crook County Middle School. CCSD nutrition services administrative clerk Diana Rice indicated that the threshold to qualify for Provision 2, the federally-funded free lunch and breakfast program, is 65 percent. Crook County Schools had 52 percent of students who qualified for free and reduced lunches in 2007-08, and the district reached the 65 percent threshold at the end of the 2011-12 school year.
Rasmussen said that he free lunch program has changed the nutritional component for the positive.
“Students are eating much healthier and leaner meals,” she said. “We have more staff members eating lunch than ever before. Our kitchen staff is excited about the changes and has adapted to new menus, new recipes, new portions, etc. very well.”
Bates referred to the new lunch opportunity as a success in progress.
“The kids have several varieties of foods to choose from each day,” he emphasized. “The additional support from the grant has allowed every kid the opportunity to come to school and not have to stress about whether or not their lunch charges are going to be something that prevents them from having an adequate meal. It gives them equal access to a good meal-which is the foundation to an effective day. I have seen that in action, and I regularly let the kids know that even in addition to the choice that they have in school, if there is something about the menu doesn’t appeal to them, they can always choose to bring a lunch from home if they want. I think it is the best set of circumstances.”
To obtain more information about the Crook County School District’s Snack and Supper Program, contact one of the following schools.
Crooked River Elementary: 541-447-6488
Ochoco Elementary: 541-447-5211
Cecil Sly Elementary: 541-447-7675
Crook County Middle School: 541-447-6283
To reach Liane Kaiser: firstname.lastname@example.org