Pilot program to provide free dinner for students
Joey Matthews | 11/6/2015, 7:07 a.m.
Beginning in March, Richmond Public Schools will provide free dinners to students at eights of its schools in underserved communities.
Those students also will be given backpacks containing free meals to take home for the weekend and extended school breaks such as holidays and inclement weather closings.
During the summer, those students’ families will get $60 food cards each month to help buy meals for the children.
It’s all part of a two-year pilot program designed to end childhood hunger in which Richmond and seven other Virginia school districts were chosen to participate.
The 3-6-5 Project to End Childhood Hunger — an initiative championed by Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe — is funded through an $8.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Richmond Schools Assistant Superintendent Tommy Kranz told School Board members at Monday’s work session at City Hall that about 6,000 students would be eligible to benefit from the initiative. He said it’s optional and parents can decline the dinners and other food assistance.
He said the schools selected for the initiative are Bellevue, Miles Jones, Oak Grove, Overby-Sheppard, J.E.B. Stuart and Westover Hills elementary schools and Albert Hill and Elkhardt-Thompson middle schools.
He said the initiative is scheduled to run through the end of the school year in June 2018.
“It’s great for our students and their families,” Mr. Kranz said.
He said the schools were selected by the U.S.D.A.
School Board Vice Chair Kristen Larson, 4th District, called the program “very exciting,” but said she was concerned providing the meals at the end of the school day could “seep into our academic day.”
Mr. Kranz said officials are still formulating the logistics of when and how to dispense the meals to the students. He said options included feeding them late in the school day or packing the meals so the students could eat them on their buses or at home.
Richmond Public Schools already provides free breakfast and lunch to all of its nearly 24,000 students through the federal program known as the Community Eligibility Provision.
Separately, Mr. Kranz also said the first-ever installation of salad bars at 20 schools should be completed by mid-December.
On Tuesday, RPS launched its “Be There” campaign to inspire more parents to get involved in their children’s educational efforts.
For more information: web.richmond.k12.va.us/AboutRPS/BeThereRPS.aspx.