Eleven schools in Paterson, one of the poorest cities in New Jersey, will serve dinner to their students, announced superintendent Eileen Shafer on Thursday morning.
School 1, 5, 6, 15, 18, 24, 27, Martin Luther King, Jr. School, Young Men’s Leadership Academy, and Eastside High School had been serving dinner to students since the start of the school year.
Beginning on Friday, School 10 will join the group, said Shafer.
“Children simply cannot learn if they are hungry,” said Shafer. “This program is aimed at helping our students become more food secure so that they can be at their best when they come to school.”
29-percent of residents live in poverty in Paterson, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
School board president Oshin Castillo said the program benefits many of the district’s neediest students.
“They need this meal,” said Castillo.
For some students, the school is their sole source for a meal. By the end of the week, the district will be serving dinner to 956 students, according to Shafer.
“I hope this program improves reading and math scores. I hope this is part of the plan,” added school board member Emanuel Capers.
The district started the program as a pilot initiative in the 2016-17 school year at two schools. About 100 students were served at the time. The next school year, the program expanded to 13 schools and served 500 students.
In the 2018-19 school year, 23 schools served dinner to approximately 1,400 students.
“We are working to repeat the success of our dinner program this year,” said food services director David Buchholtz. “It’s our way of supporting the education of Paterson students and hopefully bringing some peace of mind to their parents and guardians.”
Buchholtz is looking at expanding the dinner program to churches and community centers.
Parents and guardians of students at participating schools looking for more information about the dinner program should contact their child’s school’s main office.