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South Bend schools offer free dinner program

A growing program in South Bend is working to make sure students are not going home hungry.

“I don’t really eat lunch all the time,” said Luz Paredes, eighth grader at Dickinson Intermediate Fine Arts Academy. “But then after school, when we’re about to eat, I get to fill myself up before I go to [volleyball] practice.”

Paredes is one of dozens of Dickinson Academy students who take part in the school’s free dinner program.

“It helps me focus on what I’m doing,” Paredes said.

The program is a government-funded operation that came to South Bend nearly three years ago.

“What we try to do is reach out to schools and to students who normally may not have a meal when they go home or that meal is late in the evening when they go home,” said Victoria Moore, South Bend Schools Director of Food and Nutrition.

Moore supervises the free dinner program for all participating schools in the South Bend Community School Corporation.

“We’re now at 12 schools within the corporation,” Moore said. “We service about 1,250 students a day.”

Any student involved in an after-school activity that supports education qualifies for the program.

Once signed up, the students dine on a selection of cold and hot foods that include some type of grain, protein, milk or dairy and fresh fruits and veggies.

Kem Schreiber, Dickinson Academy magnet facilitator, oversees the program at her school. She said the dinner program is vital for the students.

“For some of our students that [meal] may be it until they come back and get breakfast with us the next morning,” Schreiber said.

Paredes said she’s happy she gets to refuel before her volleyball practice each day and she said her mom really appreciates the free meal.

“She’s very grateful for this because she’s at work until six or seven, my brothers are at school and my sister’s at school sometimes too,” Paredes said.

Moore said she’s looking to expand the free dinner program in South Bend. If your school wants to join, have a cafeteria manager reach out to administrators at the South Bend Community Schools Corporation.

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