Waco ISD will soon offer three meals a day at nearly every campus

Posted at 9:46 PM, Feb 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-13 22:59:36-05

Breakfast, lunch and soon dinner.

According to Feeding America, 1,676,740 are children struggling with hunger. Waco ISD is doing all it can to keep students full and focused.

Every day after school, 13-year-old Alonzo Cheeks meets with his tutors. But before he gets started, he grabs a bite to eat.

He said eating dinner at school makes it easier for him to concentrate on his homework.

"Sometimes if I'm really hungry, I get grumpy and don't feel like doing work," Alonzo said. "But I do it anyway!"

Through the ACE after-school program, Alonzo and about 40 of his classmates are able to have dinner for free.

"It all starts with getting the food. You can't focus on an empty stomach," said Tonee Shelton, the project director for ACE. "It warms my heart to know that when they come here to learn they'll also be fed."

A federal grant will soon allow Waco ISD to offer three meals a day to even more students.

"You've got breakfast, lunch. Now you're going to have a hot meal and potentially a snack. This is an opportunity for us to help children with their future," said Clifford Reece, food service director for Waco ISD.

Right now, there are eight schools in the district that offer some form of after-school meal. Reece hopes that by the end of March, nearly all schools in the district will do the same.

About 23 schools will offer three meals a day, that excludes academy and alternative placement schools within the district. 

For students like Alonzo, the extra fuel helps him power through his after-school activities.

"At first, I'm tired. I want to go home and go to sleep," Alonzo said. "So then I come in here and I eat. If it has sugar, I start getting hyper!"

But there are many other children who rely on this food to get them through the night. 

"You don't hear it as often and I think that may or may not be a pride issue but we all know sometimes the last meal that these students will get will be a 4 o'clock this evening," Shelton said.

"The meals they get at school may be the only nutritious meals they get," Reece said. "We're trying to figure out ways where we can help these children as much as possible. That's the whole part of this program, to give them the opportunity for growth, an education and a future."

Reece expects the state to approve their application for the program any day now. As soon as that happens, they'll begin rolling it out at different schools.

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