YAKIMA, Wash. — In a first, the Yakima School District will be opening one of its schools during next month’s winter break to serve hungry students free lunches.
Stanton Academy, on the city’s north side, will be offering hot meals and tutoring sessions to any interested K-12 student on Dec. 23, 27, 30 and 31 and Jan. 2-3 during the noon lunch hour.
According to state report card data, about 84 percent of students in Yakima qualified for free and reduced lunch, while the percentage at Stanton exceeds 90 percent, said Principal Clint Endicott.
School officials are worried that some of those same students could be deprived of good meals at home over the two-week vacation — mostly because of recent cuts to low-income programs like food stamps. Endicott said something had to be done because families are suffering.
“Two weeks is a long time to go without possibly no hot meals,” he said.
Endicott and other Stanton officials went to Superintendent Elaine Beraza and food service officials and presented their idea. The concept is similar to a summer program offered at multiple Yakima schools.
Beraza said she supported it, and both sides quickly tried figuring out the logistics. She said there are no estimates as to how many students could show up but said they will do what is necessary to feed everyone present.
Schools are not supposed to be open during breaks unless there is some sort of academic offering. So Stanton agreed to offer tutoring sessions for students in order to meet this requirement. Beraza said the lunches will be covered through a special fund related to food programs.
And while the district won’t offer any transportation, she said the school is close to public transportation, making it safe and easy to get there.
“If it works out well, maybe we’ll have it in two schools next winter break,” said Beraza, already pondering the future of the program.
Stanton administrators, resource officers and food service workers will be on hand those six days to serve students.
• Rafael Guerrero can be reached at 509-759-7853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.