Shepherd's pie, bread, milk and an apple; it might sound like a great school lunch, but this is supper for kids in the Queen City.
"I like it because I really like mashed potatoes and corn a lot," said Mikhayla Lee, a second-grader at the Integrated Arts Academy at H.O. Wheeler in Burlington.
Lee and other after-school students at the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes Elementary and two other local youth programs are now being served daily dinner right after school lets out.
Reporter Gina Bullard: What's it like eating dinner at school?
Mikhayla Lee: Pretty weird, I would say.
Lee: Because normally you eat dinner at home.
"We're really facing an epidemic, I feel, of families being hungry," said Doug Davis, the Burlington Food Service Director.
The Burlington School District says the number of children getting free and reduced meals is the highest it's ever seen. Now, this federally-funded supper program is helping to keep bellies full after school. No local tax payer dollars will be used here.
Bullard: Where do you draw the line some people would say?
Doug Davis: That's not my line to draw. I have the resources through the federal government to provide these meals for the children.
And you can see from the smiles and plates, some of these kids really are hungry.
"I kind of like it actually," third-grader Jessie Mashteare said. "There's a lot of good foods."
"At home then parents don't have to cook dinner for us," student Mackenzie Giroux said.
Over 50 percent of all the students in Burlington's North End are eligible for free or reduced meals and three more schools are planning to start the supper program this year.
The school district realizes that dinner at 2:30 in the afternoon might not hold these kids over all night.
"I eat again when I get home," Giroux said.
But they say it might be better than the alternative.
"I would really question what those children are getting for dinner and what that dinner might look like. Again, I'm not judging the families, but I know they're going home having a full nutritious dinner," Davis said.
"Because sometimes you might not eat dinner at home," Lee said.
And for students like Mikhayla Lee, supper at school gets high marks.
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