The cafeteria is open for business at Evergreen High School, but it’s not lunch for the crowd of students waiting in line.
One recent afternoon, students rushing to sports practice or clubs were grabbing one of the so-called “suppers” the Evergreen school district began offering at seven of its campuses this year. Students snagged boxes with sandwiches, potato salad, a bag of chips, fruit and a carton of milk, all provided at no cost to the students.
The third meal provides students who don’t have time for dinner — or who may not be guaranteed a dinner at home — a chance to grab some nourishment before running off to after school activities.
“For growing young people, they need nutrition throughout the day,” Principal Lisa Emmerich said as students quickly shuffled through the line.
Mikaylah Reynolds, an 18-year-old senior, grabbed a sandwich before heading off to rehearsal for the school’s upcoming performance of “Guys and Dolls.”
Reynolds and her friend Amelia Tilley, who skipped the meal Tuesday but frequently partakes in the after-school offerings, said physically strenuous play rehearsals can often go for hours without a break for a meal.
“We dance a lot,” said Tilley, 18. “This reenergizes us.”
“This is awesome,” she said. “We get what we need to do our activities.”
The district received a five-year grant through the At-Risk After-School Meals component of the Child and Adult Care Food Program, an office of the United States Department of Agriculture.
The program targets schools where half or more of the students receive free and reduced-price lunch, like Evergreen High School, but students don’t need to qualify to receive a meal. Evergreen Public Schools’ free and reduced-price lunch rate is 47 percent across all campuses.
Evergreen High School, Mountain View High School, Heritage High School, Wy’east Middle School, Covington Middle School, Cascade Middle School and Frontier Middle School all serve supper, while district elementary schools serve additional snacks to students.
The district is reimbursed $3.16 for each meal served, and so far has served more than 28,000 meals since the program kicked off in November. Evergreen is the only district in Clark County receiving this grant.
The school must also provide after-school activities such as sports, clubs or study halls to all its students to qualify for the grant, said Jen Misfeldt, manager of the district’s child nutrition services programs.
Students don’t have to participate to receive a meal, but many do. Associate Principal Reuben Dohrendorf said having a guaranteed meal available every day makes students more likely to participate in clubs or sports.
“We have one more way to get kids involved in activities,” he said.
After-school meals have been a game changer for 17-year-old senior Vanessa Kuffner. Having access to food has helped keep her fueled through track practice, she said.
“It’s so amazing,” Kuffner said on her way to practice last week. “It makes my life so much easier, not having to carry extra food.”