The Supper Program was launched by Tracy Unified School District in response to a growing need identified by the federal and state government, local educators and the children themselves.
“Kids have told me ‘Well, I don’t have food at home,’” Robert Pane, director of operations for the Boys and Girls Club, said Tuesday during meal service at North School. “Kids used to leave school, go to the liquor store and buy Cheetos and all that less-than-healthful food and bring it back. That’s what they were eating.”
Last year Pane started a conversation with TUSD Director of Food Services Valerie McDonald.
“A lot of students, their parents pick them up at 6 o’clock in the evening,” McDonald said as she watched first- through third-graders eat the meal prepared at the central kitchen at West High School. “Then they take them to (sports practice), and frequently they are just running through the drive-thru at McDonald’s or somewhere to get them something to eat on the way to ball.”
McDonald decided to come up with a new kind of meal, served five days a week, so that not only would the kids not go hungry, but they would eat healthfully, too.
“Good nutrition is associated with great cognitive thinking,” she said. “We’re trying a lot of new things with them, because the Boys and Girls Club are encouraging them to try new things and then teaching them about good nutrition. So we think they’re the best students that were willing to try the food.”
On the menu Tuesday: melon citrus jicama salad, tomato corn salad, shepherd’s pie made with red potatoes, Santa Fe chicken wrap made with fajita meat and chipotle-type flavors with corn and cheese in a whole-grain wrap, and low-fat or nonfat milk.
“Instead of a snack, they are getting an after-school meal. So it’s a fully nutritious meal. We have fruit, vegetable, dairy, protein and grain,” McDonald said.
Pane said that teaching club members to eat healthfully is a priority for the club staff.
“We’re basically flooding the kids with good food,” he said. “It’s taken off very strong and we’re getting a lot of support. There’s a lot of positive feedback from families about positive outcomes that are happening just from getting kids healthy meals.”
The TUSD Supper Program is now in action at all six school sites where the Boys and Girls Clubs have after-school activities: North, Central, South/West Park, McKinley and Villalovoz schools and the Richard O. Hastie Clubhouse at Monte Vista Middle School.
“This is just a great program, and we’re glad that we’re able to kick it off here at our Boys and Girls Clubs. We’ll see the benefits almost instantly,” Pane said. “We are very appreciative of Tracy Unified for putting this program together.”
• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4231.