While the storm exacerbated the need, ensuring student health and access to nutritional meals is a priority for YES Prep, a district where 89.78% of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Throughout the year, YES Prep offers a universal free breakfast program where everyone in the district eats free— no matter the students’ benefit status. Additionally, there is a free after-school snack program available for any campus that offers educational after-school or enrichment programming, such as ACE. Six YES Prep campuses also offer a supper program as part of ACE. In fact, anyone from the community who is 18 or younger can take advantage of the supper program— even if they do not attend YES Prep. These programs extend to the summer as well, so students participating in summer camps, orientations, and ACE (and anyone who is 18 or younger in the community) can eat at school.
YES Prep partnered with Preferred Meals because the vendor provides choices. Johnson is often on campuses and watches how students fill their plates. She’s also met with student councils to hear from students about the food choices and quality. “Participation in the meal program has spiked,” said Nakita Johnson, YES Prep’s Child Nutrition Program Manager. “Students are more fulfilled.”
In the future, Johnson hopes to offer an a la carte program for students. “It would be fresh fruits, smart snacks, and bottles of water to bring some excitement to the lunch room,” said Johnson.
On September 13, YES Prep’s board approved a new School Wellness Policy and plan. As part of the plan, YES Prep developed a School Wellness Council that will include parents and engage with the community. This council will advise on how to increase the attractiveness of breakfast and lunch programs, improve health and PE courses, provide nutritional education to the community, and more.