Rec Centers Providing After-School Meals

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CLEVELAND -- On Tuesday, the City of Cleveland kicked-off an after school program that provides hot and healthy meals to all school children.

"We want every child, school-age child, 5 to 18, to come to one of our recreation centers, have a meal, do their homework and participate in our programs," said Kim Johnson, from the City of Cleveland.

The program is administered for free at any Cleveland recreation center in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture, the Ohio Department of Education and the Children's Hunger Alliance.

"USDA has an earmark associated with this particular meal program and this program is managed through the Ohio Department of Education, so they approved us to be a sponsor statewide," said Debra Parmer, from the Children's Hunger Alliance.

The meal serving times are Monday to Friday between the hours of 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., however, the hours vary by location.  Meals will be served during winter and spring breaks, but they will not be served during snow days and on holidays.

"I think it's good," said Shaleta Dawson, a parent. "I think that all the kids should be able to come to the center and have meals, stuff like that. I think that's a wonderful thing, that the community is doing that."

Susie Akers, a registered dietician at MetroHealth Medical Center, said the after-school meals are a healthy choice for children who tend to eat processed foods that are pre-packaged or canned.

"It is nice, it's a hot meal, fresh produce, a low-fat glass of milk, it's a really nice balanced meal to it. But it's a guarantee that kids have another option," said Akers.

According to Akers, children are typically only eating fruits and vegetables once a week.  That is well below the USDA recommended guidelines, which call for a healthy diet daily.

"Children that go to bed hungry are not going to sleep as well, they're going to wake up hungry and they may not be doing as well in school because they're thinking about being hungry all the time," said Akers.  "Having three balanced meals that are provided using the USDA guidelines, that is really important for children to do better in school and stay healthy."

Shaleta Dawson said any assistance is appreciated.

"That's good that there's people out here that's thinking about us parents out here, so I'm very grateful for that," said Dawson.

Anyone interested in learning more about the after school meals, call (216) 664-2561 or visit any recreation center in the city.