San Benito High School is making free, nutritious, after-school meals available to all students, including those from other schools, each weekday afternoon as part of a new supper program.
“As part of our continuing effort to meet the nutritional needs of our students, we want them to maximize their learning potential,” said Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum, crediting Food Services Director Jim Lewis and Chief Budget Officer Roseanne Lascano for their work launching the program. “We see nutrition as a key factor in student success.”
Through the district’s healthy eating program, which also features daily salad bar options and balanced meals, along with a backpack snack program begun last year to provide students in need with food for the weekend, the supper program began serving meals on Aug. 19.
Students do not need to sign up or be part of the school’s free and reduced lunch program, in which approximately 1,500 students participate, in order to pick up a meal after school from 3 to 3:45pm.
No registration is required; SBHS students simply need to punch in their student identification number, and those from other schools can sign in at the cafeteria on main campus or in the snack bar in the Visual and Performing Arts Building, where meals are served.
Eighty-two meals, including milk, a protein entree and servings of a grain, a vegetable and a fruit on a tray, were served on the first day of the supper program, and 1,575 meals had been served as of Sept. 5. Students also have the option of getting food, including a hot entree, from the salad bar and eating it on campus or taking it home to eat later.
“The biggest benefit,” said Lewis, “is that I don’t know how many of these kids are food-challenged and don’t have a meal waiting for them after they eat their school lunch. This also benefits athletes who exert a lot of energy and can get a sack supper to eat before or after a game or practice,” and those who are participating in an after-school activity such as a club meeting, dance or band practice or tutoring. The program is open to all children and teenagers up to age 18 in the community as long as they are participating in an organized activity on the high school campus.
Lewis said the food service staff will stay later, usually until 4 p.m., to serve meals if enough students are waiting for food. Lewis is working with SBHS physical education department chairman Brian DeCarli to provide morning meals to student-athletes who are working out before school in the morning, and making sack meals available to athletes so they can have nourishment after a game, either at home or on the road.
San Benito High School got the supper program started with existing funding in the food service budget and tracks how many meals it provides so it can be reimbursed for the cost each month by the US Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to keep their bodies and minds nourished further into the day,” Lewis said. “We are proud to have the opportunity to make this available to our students and the community.”