In an effort to address childhood hunger, the city of Las Vegas is partnering with Three Square Food Bank and the Clark County School District on a food program for children who attend 44 city of Las Vegas Safekey sites. The Las Vegas City Council approved an agreement with Three Square at today’s council meeting.
The program will be an expansion of a pilot program between the city, Three Square, and the school district last year. The Safekey Snack Enhancement pilot program took place at 15 Safekey sites, which were selected based on geographic area, program enrollment and the school’s Free and Reduced Lunch participation percentage. Safekey is a before- and after-school program offered by the city of Las Vegas at numerous school district sites. The pilot program involved providing students with a light meal. Based on the success of the pilot program, the council today approved expanding the program into 29 additional Safekey sites that qualify for free and reduced lunch. The program is funded through a USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program Grant to eligible city of Las Vegas Safekey Sites at no cost to the city. The National League of Cities provided the grant.
The pilot program was considered extremely successful in increasing children’s access to after-school nutrition. During the pilot program, Three Square served more than 13,000 meals to children enrolled in the Safekey program. A few parents reported that the meal provided at Safekey had been the only one their child had received before school breakfast the next morning. Parents also expressed deep appreciation to the city for providing a fuller, more nutritious meal for their child.
Three Square chefs prepare a menu consisting of 15 different items, all meeting the USDA guidelines, and include: sub sandwiches, salads, yogurt parfaits and homemade banana zucchini bread. Each meal provides fresh fruits and vegetables, which are usually the first items consumed by the children.
“Inadequate food nutrition has been shown to have a debilitating effect on a child’s cognitive and even physical functions, often leading to the child’s underperformance in school and resulting in lower academic achievement on the part of the undernourished child,” said Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman. “Programs such as these are a critical tool to help fight hunger and increase nutrition for our young people.”
Based on the successful pilot program, Three Square is working with administrators from North Las Vegas and Clark County to expand the program to campuses throughout the valley.
“We are so excited to see this pilot program expand into the additional identified sites and we are thankful for the support of CCSD and the City of Las Vegas,” said Brian Burton, CEO and President of Three Square Food Bank. “Through this pilot process, Three Square conducted vigorous research; the feedback from parents was invaluable, many of them expressing their gratitude for being able to provide more food in their home pantries thanks to the healthy options offered in afterschool programs such as Safekey.”
The program also showed the successful collaboration that can take place between government agencies and nonprofits.
“This has been outstanding partnership between the city of Las Vegas, the Clark County School District and Three Square Food Bank,” said Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones. “Principals, teachers administrators and others went out of their way to get involved in the program to help make it successful. This program will help the district’s children prepare for learning through improved access to nutrition morning, noon, after-school and on weekends.”