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Orange County schools offer free dinner program

After-school programs provide dinner in eligible Title I schools

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(iStock/YinYang)

ORLANDO, Fla. – It's 5 p.m. and there is a line of students waiting for dinner at Waterbridge Elementary School in south Orange County. On the menu tonight, chicken and noodles, broccoli and cornbread.

Waterbridge Elementary is one of 12 elementary schools in Orange County that are now offering dinners as part of their after-school programs.

The meals come at a time when 64 percent of the students in Orange County public schools receive free or reduced lunches.

Third-grader Brandon Harrison says the food is delicious. He eats dinner in the school's cafeteria five days a week. He says the fruit is his favorite.

His mother, Delores Roman, says it's already helping the family budget.

"It saves money, it does, what can I say?" Roman said. "The way food prices are these days, I mean, every little bit helps. So it's wonderful."

The 12 schools use the private contractor ASP Kids for their after-school programs. ASP or After-School Programs added the meals to the program in February.

The meals come courtesy of a federal grant administered by the Florida Department of Health. Only Title I schools -- schools in which 50 percent or more of the students receive free or reduced lunches -- are eligible for the program.

In all, the Department of Health provides 500 meals a day.

According to ASP, it's up to the schools' principals to select an after-school administrator and only those who receive the federal grant can offer meals.

ASP says out of the 110 elementary schools in Orange County, up to 70 may qualify under Title I.


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