HILLSIDE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A new study out in New Jersey finds a growing need to provide after school dinners for children.

Three meals a day is not only good for the body but also the mind. That’s why some after school programs are meeting the need of low income students by serving them supper.

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“There’s only so much you can do on an empty stomach,” Carlos M. Rodriguez, the president and CEO of the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

“Compound that with the fact that the meal they get from us may be the only meal that they have that night.”

The community food bank in Hillside provides 2,000 meals a day for children.

(Credit: CBS2)

“Anywhere from chicken, to sliced turkey, hamburgers, these are all well balanced meals in addition to fruits and vegetables,” kitchen director Paul Kapner said.

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A study by Hunger Free New Jersey found that between 2016 and 2019 there was a 34-percent increase in the number of school children taking advantage of after school meals.

See the full report here

Mostly because the program has been successfully promoted and funded through the federal government.

The director says there has always been a need and she’s trying to expand the program to meet the needs of other food insecure children.

“Parents really piece it together these days so much with work and a lot of them work different shift hours… they work in the evenings… so knowing their kids are getting tutored and having a meal,” Adele LaTourette said.

The program supports 24,000 children in programs run by 11 school districts, community groups, and local governments. Without these meals, many low-income students would go hungry.

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The meal options are especially popular in cities like Newark and Paterson.