HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Douglass Community Services and the Hannibal School District are working together to help combat hunger.
Any Hannibal Middle School and Hannibal High School student involved in after-school activities, such as sports and academic enrichment opportunities, are eligible for a free brown bag meal to be eaten at school between 3 and 5:30 p.m. The new program is called Super Suppers and is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture At-Risk Supper program.
Meals were first provided to students Sept. 10.
"About 60 percent of our students are on free and reduced lunches," Hannibal School District Business Manager Rich Stilley said. "We're really excited about this program. It's a great way to combat hunger for our students."
He used football players as an example of the benefits of the program.
"Many of them eat lunch at noon, have a game after school and might not eat again until about 10 p.m.," Stilley said. "This program makes a difference with that and those who are food insecure."
The idea for Super Suppers developed earlier this year when Stilley, the school's food service coordinator and Stacey Nicholas with Douglass Community Services attended a No Kid Hungry Missouri conference. The USDA's At-Risk Suppers program was presented during the conference.
"They gave us this challenge: If you could do something to stop hunger in your community, what would you do?" Stilley said. "We had all the players right there, so we talked about it."
"It was like a light bulb moment. We could do this," said Nicholas, who is the community initiative director at Douglass Community Services. "We could feed our kids if we work together. It's a total partnership that is meeting a community need."
The district gives the number of meals needed to Douglass Community Services volunteers who work from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday to prepare the meals. Someone with the district picks the meals up in coolers and brings them back to the Middle School and High School before the final bell rings.
Stilley expects the number of meals served to students to climb as the semester progresses, and Nicholas said the service organization can prepare up to 1,600 meals.
Although Hannibal is not the only Northeast Missouri school district with food insecure children, it is the only one that is currently participating in the Super Supper program, Nicholas said.