Thousands of Oakland school children will be going hungry at the end of the day instead of getting hot meals through their after school programs. The board voted to eliminate the supper program this year. Some parents didn’t learn about the change until school started and are calling for the district to try and find funds or donations to bring the program back. Studies show that children, when hungry, do not perform as well academically and for man, who are living in poverty, the cuts will mean no dinner at all. Now all they are likely to get is crackers and juice. One parent spoke to a local TV station:
“It’s frustrating because you know, we’re all struggling at the end of the day and I don’t think food should be something kids should have to be worrying about,” said Maria Bates, an Oakland parent.
School district spokesman John Sasaki says budget constraints prompted the cuts. He says the supper program food received federal funding, but the district will save about $1.4 million in labor costs by eliminating one staff position and reducing 18 positions from full-time to part-time.
About 3,000 students out of the 36,000 students in the district received the evening meal, according to the district. About 500 students were involved in the sports cuts that were initially cut.
“They’d get hot meals, spaghetti sometimes, tacos a few time, pizza,” said one parent Keith Gandy who has two girls in the after school program. Gandy says as a working parent it was a big help, knowing the children were getting a meal before they got home. Now, he says their dinnertime will be much later and he and other families will have to figure out how to stretch their dollars.”
And for some there will be no dinner at all.
One group has formed an online petition to urge the district to reinstate the program.
In my opinion there is no excuse to make children pay this high price for trying to save money. Budgets should not be balanced on the backs of the poor. And the consequences for these children not receiving food and the impact on their academic progress could spell long term harm.