New Kensington-Arnold schools may add after-school food program
Another supplemental meal program could serve children in Arnold and New Kensington this school year.
The New Kensington-Arnold school board on Thursday agreed to apply for funding for an after-school meal program sponsored through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The At-Risk Afterschool Meals program is an option for low-income districts that offer any type of after-school activity — athletics, clubs, even day-care and latchkey programs, according to Superintendent John Pallone.
Pallone said the district will focus on bringing the program to Valley High and Middle schools and H.D. Berkey intermediate school, the buildings that most regularly host after-school activities. The meals can be offered only on days during which activities are held at the school after classes are over.
If approved, the program would come at no cost to the district or participating students.
Pallone said the program usually requires districts to have included after-school meals as part of the contract with their food-service provider. However, since the program is newer than New Kensington-Arnold's more than four-year-old contract with Nutrition Group, Pallone said officials believe the district can get a waiver to join this school year.
Pallone said the district will include the after-school meals in its request for food-service proposals, which are being sought in anticipation of the Nutrition Group contract expiring at the end of this school year.
Pallone hopes the after-school meal program can begin in January.
Board member Eric Doutt said any child in Arnold and New Kensington can seek an after-school meal, regardless of their family's income, participation in an extracurricular activity or even attendance at a district school. They simply have to live in one of the two communities and show up at a school offering the meals.
According to USDA information provided by Doutt, the program aims to not only ensure students have an evening meal or at least a snack if they are staying late at school, but also to provide a safe, constructive place for students to go after the school day ends.
Pallone said the Penn Hills School District participates in a similar program.
The At-Risk Afterschool Meals program would be the second free program offered this school year at New Ken-Arnold with the aim of fighting child hunger.
Volunteers of Project SEED (Something to Eat Every Day), hope to prevent children from going hungry on weekends by offering Fort Crawford Elementary School students bags of nonperishable food on Fridays during the school year.
Retired district employees Joanne Cecchi and Ruth Carson, working through the Alle-Kiski Valley Adult Activity Center in New Kensington, began planning the pilot program over the summer. Cecchi said the first batch of bags were sent home to about 145 children on Oct. 18.
They estimate $18,000 will be needed to pay for a school year's worth of weekend food. Donations can be made at www.somethingtoeateveryday.org.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or email@example.com.