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After school meal is pilot project

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Sequoia School first grader Giselle Ochoa, right, is all smiles as she enjoys her hot dinner that’s a pilot program of Give Every Child a Chance along with the Manteca Unified School District Nutri...

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED January 31, 2014 1:49 a.m.

Dinner was served for the first time this week at Sequoia School during the Give Every Child a Chance’s Afterschool Program.

Second-grade students Alana Farias and Saray Ruiz were thrilled to have a large slice of pizza served along with their choices of fruits and vegetables on Day One of this pilot program.

Her appetite hardly spoiled, Ruiz still had room for dinner by the time she got home later that day. “We had chicken – my favorite,” she said.

Unaiza Furqan, ASAP program director, noted that spoiling the youngster’s dinner plans of mom and dad were one of the concerns during the planning stages of the dinner plan.

“Most of the parents were supportive of it,” she said on Wednesday. “They welcomed the (dinner) program with open arms.”

Furqan and Carol Davis, the CEO of GECAC, worked in partnership with Patty Page of the Manteca Unified School District Nutrition Services Department and Sequoia Principal Lisa Herrin during the planning stages that kicked off in November.

Sequoia was chosen to head the pilot program based on 79 percent of the students there being on the free and reduced meal plan.

“That’s eight out of 10 kids are on free and reduced,” Furqan said.

Dinner is served daily between 5:30 through 6 p.m., with hot meals served on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

“On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they’ll get a packaged meal for dinner,” said Furqan.

About 60 youngsters on this hump day picked up chicken tenders and rice or chips served with a bean dip to go along with a trip to the salad bar.

GECAC, by serving dinner, is providing nutritional meals to those youngsters who spend long hours at school.

“They’re here since 8 a.m. so by 5:30 p.m. they’re hungry,” said Furqan.

She would be thrilled to see this program branch off to other GECAC sites. “We’re also hoping to expand to the point where siblings under age 18 can also join in on the dinners,” Furqan said.

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