Cleveland begins offering free after-school meals for students at city rec centers

CLEVELAND - Starting Monday, any Cleveland student between the ages of 5 and 18 can show up at any of the city's 21 recreation centers after school between 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and get a free after-school meal. No need to sign up, just show up.

"The meals are open to every child so there are no income-related forms that the children or parents have to fill out. We just ask that they come and we'll take care of the rest," said Kim Johnson, Cleveland's Assistant Director of Public Works.

Studies show more than half of children in Cleveland live below the poverty line. The Children's Hunger Alliance is working with the city to provide the meals.

"Often times children just don't have meals outside of what they receive at school," said Alliance Vice President Debra Parmar. "We provide fresh fruits and vegetables three times a week. We limit the number of processed meat items that children can have," she said. "We feel that the healthier the meal, the better it is for the children."

Now in its third year, the program has grown from 40,000 meals to near 70,000 but they're in a position to give more.

"We have the capacity to feed a lot more children but have been challenged with being able to get the word out," Parmar said.

The meals will be served Monday through Friday during the school year including during winter and spring breaks. Meals will not be served during snow days and holidays.

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