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D.C. Schools Offering Afterschool Dinner
October 22, 2010

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For many students in the District of Columbia public schools nowadays, three meals a day means eating at school for each of those meals. A total of 99 out of the District's 123 schools are now offering a third meal to students, in addition to breakfast and lunch.

The District effort is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Child and Adult Care Food Program, which offers free or low-cost milk and nutritious food to needy people in 13 states.

The program is thought to have a cost approaching $6 million a year, but the cost comes in the wake of continuing studies showing increases in childhood poverty, childhood obesity, and other worrying signs of poor nutrition in school-age children. Tougher economic times can mean less healthful meals, especially since fast food outlets offer such low-priced food. The school meal plan is an effort to offer an alternative, as part of an overall drive to give students fresh food across the spectrum of the FDA food pyramid. (A recent study found that Americans were still lagging in the consumption of fruit and vegetables.)

A recent survey found that the obesity rate of students enrolled in the D.C. school district was 43 percent. As a result, school breakfast and lunch menus now offer a variety of healthful options of locally grown foods.

Another recent survey found that a large number of D.C. households struggled to find enough money to afford a range of fruits and vegetables. At a recent parent-teacher event, few parents also raised their hands when asked if they had consumed more than the occasional fresh banana in the past few weeks. D.C. school officials hope that by changing their students' eating habits, they can also influence the way the children's families eat.

The District is also hoping to spur interest in afterschool programs. The students' third meal of the day often coincides with afterschool educational programming.

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