Mar 13, 2012 10:08 PM by Nikki Ibarra

Low income Santa Maria students receive free dinners through government-funded program

About 300 students in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District are now receiving free dinners, through a government-funded program. The "Supper Program" gives needy students free and healthy dinners.

According to school administrators, about 80% of the students in Santa Maria come from low-income families.

Right now, only three city schools are participating, but they plan on extending the program to all district schools in the fall.

The program costs the district about $525 per child, per year; but that is money the state will reimburse.

The district said this is a way of providing students with additional nutrition. "Students that have proper nutrition do better in school, have better attendance, and so those are the kind of goals and objectives of providing our students with the proper nutrition," said Patty Schwarzkopf, coordinator for the district.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 14% of families in California struggle to put food on the table.

"My primary concern is that they are fed, safe and education," said Ann Wicklund, principal of Alvin Avenue School.

To qualify for the program, students must be in the After-School Education and Safety program, or from a migrant family.

But for some taxpayers KSBY spoke to, this program should be offered for all students, regardless of income.

"Middle income seems to get hit either way. The wealthy can afford it. The low income have all the programs, but the middle income, they're the ones that are still striving. They're struggling," said Nipomo resident, Rosemary Flory.


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