Several Richland One schools now offering dinner - - Columbia, South Carolina

Several Richland One schools now offering dinner


At some schools in the Midlands, breakfast, lunch, and now dinner are being offered, but it has nothing to do with convenience -- it's about meeting a true need in the community.

Richland One is a school district where the majority of students receive free or reduced lunch, and a lot of times if families are having a hard time providing lunch, dinner can prove to be just as tough.

"I saw a young child put bread in his pocket so that resonated with me," said Imogene Clark, director of Student Nutrition Services for Richland One. "Why would he be putting bread in his pocket other than to save for later?"

Clark says seeing the need first-hand was devastating, but also got her thinking about what resources the school district could tap into. The Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act signed into law in 2010 by President Barack Obama turned out to be the answer.

"There was section in that law that stated an expansion of the child and adult care meals program and so we looked into it," said Clark.

It was a long process, but Clark says it was more than worth it. We stopped by Pine Grove Elementary where dinner was being served up before students settled in for some after-school tutoring to see what they had to say.

"Feels like you're kind of at home 'cause you sitting down and the other people around you are like family," said student Dane McCray.

At this school, it's a rather large family full of laughter and smiles. Just ask Donald Squires. "It's like eating at my house," he said. 

At Pine Grove, the good news is that every student is eligible to receive a free dinner, and that's because more than 50 percent of their students already receive a free or reduced lunch.

Dinner, just like lunch, is healthy and colorful. Tuesday's menu is veggie lasagna, carrots, and oranges. Federal dollars are in place to keep the program going for awhile, so now it's just about keeping the funding flowing.

"We hope that if the funding is ever lifted or suspended that we will find a mechanism within our school district to fill that void and to provide that line item in our budget this is something we cannot lose the kids need the kids appreciate it and so do our working families," said Dr. Traci Cooper, director of Richland One's Extended Day Program.

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