Last week, Stafford Municipal School District received approval from the Texas Department of Agriculture to begin a program offering free weekday dinners to all students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
Beginning Feb. 3, SMSD students can take advantage of the program from 3:45-5:45 p.m. Monday-Friday in the Stafford Elementary cafeteria.
SMSD Child Nutrition Services Director Danny McDonald said the district already participates in the UDSA’s National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, so the service is expanding in order to provide meals for Stafford students at all times of the day.
“This school meal is maybe the only meal they will receive, so it’s just an extension of what we already do,” she said.
The School Breakfast Program (SBP) reimburses the cost of meals served to more than 1.5 million qualifying Texan children daily. Meanwhile, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a USDA-assisted meal program that provides lunches to more than 3 million Texas children in school and residential child-care institutions. The NSLP serves nutritious, low-cost or
free lunches to students in public and nonprofit private schools in Texas.
Students do not need to apply for the dinner program, which will be open to all students in the district, according to McDonald.
“We will be cooking just like we do at lunchtime and offering the students a meal,” she said. “They don’t have to be a part of any after-school activity to get the meal, but any students doing an activity at the schools will also have that option available to them.”
According to the UDSA, Texas state law requires that a school must participate in the School Breakfast Program if at least 50 percent of its students are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals. Many of Stafford MSD’s students are nutritionally “at risk” according to McDonald, making the school’s newest program all the more essential.
“It’s important that we provide a healthy, nutritious meal in order for them to be able to learn proper eating and good health,” she said. “You have some kids in a situation where (what they get at school) is all they get.”