Laughter erupted from the gymnasium as tables of children sat patiently waiting for supper.
Reminiscing on past meals had given them the giggles. I asked the students what their favorite after-school meal was and they decidedly chose salad, but listed many other dishes, including beef stew, fruit cups and macaroni and cheese. As raised hands sprung up requesting seconds of both salad and fruit cups, it was pretty clear that the children were thoroughly enjoying their meals.
As a part of the national Lights on Afterschool commemoration, Vansville Community Center in Beltsville, MD invited some of its partners, including Maryland Out of School Time, Share Our Strength and Maryland Hunger Solutions to highlight their after-school programs.
The Vansville Community Center is one of 14 new recreation centers offering after-school meals in Maryland under the sponsorship of the Capital Area Food Bank.
In addition to a healthy supper and snack, Vansville Community Center also offers homework help, tutoring, gardening and various exercise activities. The after-school program is crucial in closing the dinnertime gap and offering engaging activities for children. The Vansville staff is excited about the work they are doing. They know how important their jobs are in providing necessary services to Maryland children.
“There’s been great progress in Maryland in getting more organizations to participate in the Afterschool Meal Program, and the state can build on this success by continuing to spread the news about this remarkable program,” says Cathy Demeroto, Director of Maryland Hunger Solutions.
The Afterschool Alliance’s “Maryland After 3PM” survey estimates that an additional 37 percent (296,374) of Maryland children not in after-school programs would likely participate if affordable and conveniently located programs were offered.
Lights on Vansville offered an opportunity not only to see a great after-school program in action, but also brought up the need for continued work and expansion of after-school programming for Maryland children.
Vansville Community Center is doing amazing work for local children and will surely serve as a guide for other community centers, schools and youth programs that want to incorporate after-school meals into their current programming.