PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey school district is making sure no student goes hungry, at any time of day.
Students can have not only free breakfast and lunch, but free dinner at school.
“It is extremely important. I mean no one wants to be hungry,” Eileen Shafer, the superintendent at Paterson Public Schools said.
For the fourth year in a row, the school system will be providing dinner for needy students who might otherwise not have a proper supper.
This year the program will serve free dinner in 11 schools and feed 956 students.
This is in addition to already providing free breakfast and lunch.
“The 10 schools presently serving dinner are Public Schools No. 1, No. 5, No. 6, No. 15, No. 18, No. 24, No. 27, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Complex, the Young Men’s Leadership Academy, and Eastside High School. Public School No. 10’s dinner program is scheduled to begin tomorrow, Oct. 11,” Paterson Public Schools said in a statement.
“If kids don’t eat… In terms of learning they can’t concentrate. It’s that simple. How can you concentrate if your belly is rumbling?” David Buchholtz, the service director for the Paterson Board of Education explained.
The pilot year of the program started with two schools serving about a hundred kids.
Last year it swelled to 23 schools feeding about 1,400 students.
School officials tell CBS2 as this school year goes on, the need and the numbers could match or even exceed that total.
“They leave the after school program with a full stomach and knowing that they’ve been fed is important to the school district,” Shafer said.
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 in the garden state.
The Paterson School District pays $500,000 for its dinner program, the cost of which is being reimbursed by the federal government.