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VUHS pioneers afterschool food service

VERGENNES — Vergennes Union High School is hosting what is being touted as the county’s first after-school meal program, providing free, nutritious food to children right after the final bell sounds for the day.
Addison Northwest Supervisory Union officials proposed the program, which received support through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Child and Adult Care Food Program. Officials picked VUHS as the site for the program, which provides children of all ages — regardless of financial background — access to foods like sandwiches, vegetables and fruit from around 2:46 to 3:15 p.m.
Martha Kenfield, food service coordinator at VUHS, recently gave the Hunger Council of Addison County an update on the progress of the nascent program, which has been quickly catching on with kids in the Vergennes area since it was launched late last month.
“We all know that to create a pattern that becomes a habit … the more often you do it continually, the better off you are,” Kenfield said. “As with exercise and everything else we like to fit into our day, we decided to come right back from February break and start offering our dinner program to the high school students.”
While based at VUHS, Kenfield stressed the program is open to all children in the ANwSU, which includes Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Waltham and Vergennes. “Children” in this case are being defined as being at least one year, two days old through “non-graduated senior.” There is no sign-up required; kids can just show up.
Available items routinely include pizza, chicken patty sandwiches, grinders, salads, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cucumbers, carrots, apples, oranges and cheese sticks. Milk and juices are also available.
“They get to choose their entrée, and we highly recommend that they take a fruit or vegetable,” Kenfield said.
“They are loving it.”
Kenfield said an average of 57 meals per day were provided during the six days the program operated in February.
From March 1 through March 7, an average of 65 meals per day were served. So in total, the VUHS after-school dinner program served 667 meals in its first 11 days, averaging 61 meals per day. And Kenfield noted this initial demand has occurred at a time of limited sports programming at VUHS. She anticipates the numbers to really spike when spring sports kick into high gear.
Some of the participants were under the misimpression that the program would only last one week, Kenfield said. But she reassured them that it would last through the end of the school year.
LISA DAVIS, CAFETERIA assistant at Vergennes Union High School, checks a list and makes sure students are getting a proper nutritional balance of snacks and entrées during the new after-school meal service.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
“And these kids’ mouths drop when you say, ‘It’s free,’” Kenfield said with a smile.
“It’s a hit.”
While the program might be a geographic stretch for younger ANwSU kids living outside of Vergennes, it has succeeded in drawing interest. For example, she noted the program recently provided food to 32 Ferrisburgh Central School students who held a rehearsal at VUHS.
“We’re getting new kids every day,” Kenfield said.
Some of those kids are just looking for a quick snack before the ride back home.
“Often, the kids are choosing items that they are literally starting to consume the minute we have marked them off and they are walking to the bus, eating their food, and it’s gone by the time they get on,” Kenfield said. “They don’t want to have to throw it away on the bus.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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