SANTA ROSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — For some students, the only meals they eat are the ones provided by their school. A dinner program offered by Santa Rosa County School District is feeding students enrolled in afterschool activities another meal. 

“Some of these students have breakfast as early as 7 a.m. and then they don’t have lunch until 11 a.m. or 11:30 a.m.,” said Leslie Bell, director of food services Santa Rosa County Schools. “By 3 or 4 o’clock, they’re starving and this meal helps them.”

There are currently six elementary schools and two middle schools offering the dinner program, specifically in areas of Santa Rosa county where food insecurity is prominent. 

Rhodes Elementary is one of the participating schools, and Principal Kacie Reaves says the meals benefit her students in the classroom.

“Our school has about an 80 percent poverty rate, so a lot of our students come to school hungry,” said Reaves. “Sometimes the meals they receive here are the only meals they receive during the day. So, having that warm nutritious meal during the day helps with our attendance, it helps with behavior within the school. It is crucial to our success.”

The program started as an after school snack, but with a growing need it evolved into a full meal. Much like the breakfast and lunches offered, the meal comes with an entrée, fruit and vegetables. The goal is to help kids stay attentive during their extracurriculars such as tutoring

The program is currently feeding 300-400 students district wide, and hopes to expand to Milton High School by March 1.

“In this district in particular our mission is to love and educate and prepare them for graduation and a successful future,” said Bell. “Well the nutrition piece is a huge component of that because they’re not going to learn on an empty stomach.”

Participating Schools:

  • TR Jackson Pre-K Center
  • Rhodes Elementary
  • East Milton Elementary
  • Benny Russell Elementary
  • Berryhill Elementary
  • Pea Ridge Elementary
  • Avalon Middle
  • King Middle