DALLAS — The kitchen at Highland Meadows Elementary School is a busy one these days. When all of the lunch shifts are completed, workers are busy chopping and cooking up additional meals for dozens of students.
They know some of the children will return to the cafeteria for dinner before heading home.
"Their lunch is so early in the day, by the time it's 3 o'clock, they're starving all over again," explained Assistant Principal Annette Fields.
Fields says Highland Meadows is among Dallas Independent School District campuses now offering an after-school supper program.
"It's been taking off like crazy," Field said.
Ninety percent of the students in Dallas ISD are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Educators say there are a lot of children across the district who go home hungry.
Like many school districts across the county, Dallas ISD decided to take advantage of a federal after-school meal program.
Dora Rivas, executive director of food and child nutrition the district, said she has watched the program grow from 37 schools to 136 schools over the past two years.
"The students — where we have the program — have found that ... they are able to go through enrichment and tutorial programs and they get re-energized so they can make it through," she said.
Rivas added that children in after-school programs who stick around for supper are offered both hot and cold meal options. Cafeteria workers say all dinners include protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, and a carton of milk.
Monday was taco night at Highland Meadows' cafeteria.
The school's administrators say since opting in to the dinner program, they've been able to retain more students in after-school programs.