Hundreds of students throughout the Merced City School District stay on campus after the final bell to participate in extended-day programs. For some, it’s a chance to get extra help with reading or math. For others, it’s an opportunity to enrich their learning through specialized clubs, such as robotics, gardening, drama, language, or leadership.
Of course, many children are hungry by the end of the day so we have traditionally provided snacks such as crackers and cheese or cereal bars to help tide them over, but now we’re able to do even more. As of March 1, we began providing “Super Snacks” that consist of more substantial items, including salads, sandwiches, and wraps, along with fruit, vegetables and milk.
These Super Snacks are possible because our district was approved for a federally-funded program operated under the Child and Adult Care Food Program which primarily serves Residential Child Care Institutions. The program allows schools and/or school districts with high populations of low-income families to participate as well. To qualify, 50 percent or more of the enrolled students must be eligible for free or reduced price meals. The meals are reimbursed under the CACFP Supper Program. All students enrolled in after school programs that include educational and/or enrichment activities receive these meals free of charge, regardless of their eligibility.
“We recognized the gap between substantial meals for many of our students, and we wanted to do more to support their nutritional needs. By offering this Super Snack, we are able to help our students keep up their energy and focus throughout their extended day programs,” said Patty Morado, director of school nutrition services.
Our SNS leaders collaborated with staff members in developing the Super Snacks, and they are taking student feedback into consideration as well. The goal is to offer items that are simple and healthy, yet tasty. I recently stopped by Gracey Elementary where dozens of students in the ASSETS (After School Student Education: Teamwork for Success) program were enjoying their Super Snacks. The menu that day included salads with ham and hardboiled eggs plus dried fruit and milk. The children I spoke with all gave positive reviews of the food, including one little boy who shared a ‘thumbs up’ while crunching a mouthful of leafy greens.
“We have had a great response so far, and our students are open and direct about which items they do and don't like. We are very excited to have this opportunity to serve our students to the fullest extent,” said Morado.
“We served more than 228,000 (approximately 1,300/day) of the regular after school snacks last year, so there are a lot of children who will benefit from this expanded Super Snack program,” said SNS Supervisor Mary Williams.
If you would like to learn more about the snacks and meals served in our schools, please visit the Nutrition Services page of our district website: http://www.mcsd.k12.ca.us/District/Department/4-Nutrition-Services
Sara Sandrik, an Emmy Award-winning former journalist, is the public information officer for the Merced City School District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.