Local kids can receive a free dinner at some Marysville elementary schools this school year as the district provides a new service to the community.
For a few years now the district has participated in the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants, which provide funding for after-school tutoring and dinners for some select students.
However, the Marysville School District has received funding that allows them to open that program to the entire community now.
The district’s dinner program began on Oct. 15.
“We’ve always served dinners to the students that were enrolled in the program,” said Peggy King, finance and operations analyst with the district.
“This year we’ve opened up for a separate half hour for the whole community,” she said.
The free meals are provided to kids age 18 and under at Cascade, Liberty, Quil Ceda, Tulalip and Shoultes elementary schools.
Kids do not have to go the elementary school to receive food there.
“You don’t have to have someone at Cascade or one of the other schools to attend. You may be a family with a preschooler and a two-year-old and you can come and eat,” said King.
The dinners are served from 4:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday during the school year, however there will be some weeks and dates that the program is unavailable.
The district can only receive federal funding for the program if an educational enrichment program is also being hosted, so there are some days and weeks the program will skip.
“The expense to the district is the labor involved,” said King, who said that the food service workers were already working during the 21st Century program, but their time was extended by half an hour for the new dinner program.
Officials hope the program provides food to kids and families in need.
“We do our best to really make an impact within the community,” said Danny Vasquez, assistant director of child nutrition services at the district.
“We want to have full responsibility of making sure our kids are fed. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, because a lot of kids go home hungry,” he said.
The new dinner program was inspired in part by the breakfasts and lunches that the district provides for kids.
“We served 85,000 breakfasts and lunches in our summer meal program this last summer so we know the need is there,” said King.
In previous years the district only served breakfast and a snack, but included lunches this year, which King said was popular and likely to be done again next summer.
“There was a bigger impact this year than we expected,” said Vasquez.
“It really made an impact with some of the programs we’re running at these sites for the kids,” he said, “just starting their day off with a nutritious meal to learn.”
He said families like having a comfortable place to bring their kids to get a meal.
“I think they liked having the comfort of knowing they can take their kids to a safe environment and get a warm meal for free,” he said.
“It was a nice place and a familiar face,” he said.
The district has close to 50 percent of their student population on free and reduced lunches, said King.
“It helps the families with their overall picture,” she said.
She said the meals are nutritious as well.
“They meet all the components of fruits and vegetables and grains and dairy. So not only is it a benefit, but it’s good food,” she said. “Cooking healthy is expensive for families so it helps them provide nutrition."
The menu is set each day with a few items and rotates each day. It includes items such as fruit, green beans, calzones, ham and cheese sandwiches, milk, french fries, carrot sticks and brown rice.
For October and November the dinner program is available every day except Oct. 31, Nov. 12 to 15 and Nov. 19 to 22.
“We’re relaying there are a few weeks and days here and there where the program will not be available,” said King.
She said that posters and flyers will be heading out with students soon that detail the dates available throughout the year.
The program is scheduled to continue throughout the rest of the school year until mid-June.
“And then we’ll be gearing up the summer breakfast and lunches again,” said Vasquez.