Fill ‘em up: New program provides free dinners to students in need

David Albers/Staff
- Gabby Tejeta, 6, Kiah Brough, 7, and Bailey Reum, 7, left to right, work on homework together at the After School Program Kids program at Golden Terrace Elementary School on Monday, April 16, 2012, in Golden Gate. The after school program recently began receiving a $2 million annual grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture to provide dinner to students in schools where over half of the students receive free or reduced lunches.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

David Albers/Staff - Gabby Tejeta, 6, Kiah Brough, 7, and Bailey Reum, 7, left to right, work on homework together at the After School Program Kids program at Golden Terrace Elementary School on Monday, April 16, 2012, in Golden Gate. The after school program recently began receiving a $2 million annual grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture to provide dinner to students in schools where over half of the students receive free or reduced lunches.

Wendy Rodas spooned out steaming mashed potatoes and carrots from the black, plastic plate, saving the barbecue chicken for last.

Sometimes the 8-year-old Golden Terrace Elementary second grader eats three meals a day at school — breakfast, lunch and dinner, she said.

“It fills me up a whole bunch,” Wendy said of her meal on Monday. “I don’t get dinner at home.”

Wendy’s not alone. Many of the students at the Golden Gate school don’t get a proper dinner when they walk out of the school doors. More than 90 percent of the students at Golden Terrace are economically needy.

That’s why the nonprofit, After School Programs Kids, stepped in to provide more than 300 free dinners a day to students in eight Collier County elementary schools.

Last year, the private organization received an $2 million annual grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture to provide free dinners to students in its after school programs in Collier, Broward, Dade and Orange counties.

The grant must be applied to schools where more than 50 percent of the student population qualifies for free and reduced lunch. Around 62 percent of all students in Collier schools qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Since the meal program began in December, the grant has paid for almost a quarter of a million meals across the state. In Collier County, it’s provided more than 13,500 hot meals.

Monday, about 25 students, including Wendy, crowded around a cafeteria table munching on carrots, mashed potatoes, barbecue chicken, and a biscuit. They washed the meal down with a glass of 1 percent milk. A different meal is offered five days a week throughout the school year.

Starting at 5 p.m., parents trickled into the cafeteria to pick up their children. They pay $44 per week for their children to attend the after school program.

First-grader Alex Turkelson was eating his chicken and waiting for his Dad. Alex said he likes carrots and staying after school because he “likes to eat and play.” Thirty minutes later his dad, Thomas Turkelson, walked into the cafeteria on the way back from his construction job.

“This is convenient,” Thomas Turkelson said of the meal program. “It’s nice, especially when I get off late.”

Turkelson said he and his wife can afford to cook dinner at home, but that this provides an extra meal for his growing, 7-year-old. Alex also eats a free breakfast from school.

Laura Martinez’s 6-year-old daughter, Jasmary Bracero, started eating some of her dinners at school in February. Martinez needed her daughter to stay at school while she worked at Fresh Market.

“Before she would come home starving,” Martinez said. Now, when Jasmary eats dinner at Golden Terrace, Martinez said her daughter comes home with more energy.

Alan Wolnek, the founder of After School Programs, said the meals program is aimed for children who get too little to eat at home. Too many children go home hungry, he said.

“Many (parents) say they can’t afford healthy choices and that they have to buy unhealthy food,” Wolnek said.

With the meal program, the kids are guaranteed a nutritious dinner that meets the dietary guidelines for elementary students. Students who eat a healthy, nutritious meal perform better in school, Wolnek said.

The program offers other meals like turkey tetrazzini, a roll, broccoli, and pineapple tidbits or arroz con pollo, Cuban bread, peas and carrots and plantains.

“These kids, they clean their plates, they really do,” Wolnek said.

Monday was no different.

Within thirty minutes, the kids had emptied their plates. They said they were hungry after hours of doing homework, playing ball, and doing work on the computer.

Wolnek wants to see the meals program grow. He recently received district approval to expand the program to Immokalee, but only if the schools are interested.

The real goal of After School Programs is to get the children off the street and into a safe, after school environment, he said. Adding a meal program to that was a “no-brainer,” he said.

“This feels really good,” Wolnek said. “We’re lucky we can offer something like this.”

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 49

Bigkondorsback (Inactive) writes:

I wonder how many Escalades with 24s are there to pick up their needy kids every day?

comment writes:

What a great program!!!!! These are children - why does it matter what their ethnicity is? No child should be hungry in this country. Whatever we as Americans can do we need to do. REMEMBER THEY ARE CHILDREN AND THEY DESERVE A CHANCE.

neoconnot writes:

Great,let's just turn over all child rearing responsibilities to the nanny state. How tragic that broken homes (read divorces) and low wages (read outsourcing and illegal immigration) are devastating our nation's homes, but now we provide another incentive for this to happen. Free breakfast, lunch and dinner. Woo hoo. Maybe the schools can house them over night too. What a death spiral our society is in. Don't believe me, go to Europe. Our example for the last 30 yrs is falling apart at the seems and there is no stopping it now. We can, but we don't. Instead we come up with idiotic programs like this. It's a "no brainer", teh article states. Yeah, invented by folks with no brains. How special, as the old saying goes...

crazyjoedivola1 (Inactive) writes:

Chapter 1: Shipyard Day Care Centers of World War II:The Kaiser Experiment

During World War II, the Kaiser Company built shipyard child care centers for working mothers. This important but neglected landmark social experiment in American history affected the lives of working mothers and their children, particularly the shipyard workers in Richmond, California and Portland, Oregon.To maintain a profit and meet war production deadlines, the Kaiser effort, funded through the United States Maritime Commission, established 24 hour children centers.

John_Galt writes:

It's NOT charity if the government forces you to do it. The government is stealing your money at the point of a gun, then giving it away and robbing you not just of your money, but of the chance to donate it of your own free will! Americans are the most generous people in the world! The more the government taxes and gives away, the less generous we will be.

Let charity be optional! TANSTAAFL!

mr_1_term_proposition writes:

If you can't feed them then don't be s----- enough to breed them. It is that simple.

Bramble writes:

Oh how wonderful, a new government program. Especially one that is not really based on any verified need, only a general assumption.

Now don't we all feel good about that?

Since the government is now providing dinners as well as lunches, why not breakfast too?

Some kids don't have cell phones, and I'm sure cell phone industry would love to have govt use taxpayer money to buy phones for needy kids.

Someone needs to get started on that govt program right away.

GiftedOne writes:

Bet the parents don't miss out on lotto, alcohol and cigarettes as often as their kids go without a meal. I choose not to pick a side, when hypocritical losers abound on both sides. Taxes paid in, shorted personally and professionally by wealthy individuals equal monies thrown at useless programs like this. LOSERS both sides.

MIF writes:

The parents need to stop breeding if they can't feed their children; the only victims here are the children. Yes, I agree with the comment about the escalade!

beerbong writes:

I would rather see kids with full bellies than aid going to other countries.

Bicyea writes:

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner-- No wonder there is money left on the EBT to pay BAIL!!

Harvel writes:

in response to comment:

What a great program!!!!! These are children - why does it matter what their ethnicity is? No child should be hungry in this country. Whatever we as Americans can do we need to do. REMEMBER THEY ARE CHILDREN AND THEY DESERVE A CHANCE.

Exactly!

gl1800 writes:

I pity those of you who criticize a private charity for helping feed hungry children. This group is helping improve a child’s life without costing you a penny (if you even pay taxes). I applaud anyone who helps without Uncle Sam’s involvement. Because of this charity, many children won’t go to bed hungry.

Harvel writes:

in response to mr_1_term_proposition:

If you can't feed them then don't be s----- enough to breed them. It is that simple.

I agree, but poor people will always have children and we should not let children go hungry.

lemonjello writes:

Are you serious? Are there really that many A-holes in this town that would deny a hungry child a meal?

I have lived here for over 20 years now and this place has more pathetic humans than anywhere I have ever been. What a bunch of POS you are. Do you think those children chose to live this life?

NDN needs to have a rule that it is mandatory to pull your head out before you post.

Texas writes:

How do you know they are illegal???

furball writes:

lemonjello, you are still calling people names for their opinion. Guess you want free speech taken away. The true pillars of liberalism: arrogance, intolerance and bullying. Wow you fit! Dont' you have a OCW rally to go to?
How much Federal Income tax did you pay? Probably nothing. How many entitlements do you receive monthly?

Texas writes:

Really, if you look at it many of these kids are not illegal...many of their parents work. They most likely do not make enough to even own a computer. Some of you guys are the most ignorant,prejudiced people I have ever read. If you think it is a scam, maybe you could take a ride to one of the outlying areas of Naples and see how the hard working class lives.

Bramble writes:

No one is against feeding hungry children.

However, there is a well-founded skepticism of vague public programs of dubious need funded with public tax money (that's where govt grants come from) and operated by charities whose main funding comes from govt gifts and tax exemptions and who have almost no transparency or public oversight.

This town is fat with such groups.

furball writes:

By the way lemonjello the Department of Agriculture is not a private organization. DUH
Cradle to Grave entitlements here we go! However when it is all gone it is gone! Then the enslaved people dependent on the government/backs of the taxpayers won't be able to take care of themselves. The role of the parent is to make the child as INDEPENDENT as possible.
Not to deny a hungry child, but why are their parents the fattest people in society? They are eating the kids allocations.

lemonjello writes:

in response to furball:

lemonjello, you are still calling people names for their opinion. Guess you want free speech taken away. The true pillars of liberalism: arrogance, intolerance and bullying. Wow you fit! Dont' you have a OCW rally to go to?
How much Federal Income tax did you pay? Probably nothing. How many entitlements do you receive monthly?

Taxes 35%, Entitlements - ZERO... If you struggle with being a called an a-hole for wanting to deny a kid a meal, then, you are in denial and probably an a-hole.

I am as Conservative as it gets and consider having compassion a viable way to live. You don't like it, too bad.

lemonjello writes:

in response to furball:

By the way lemonjello the Department of Agriculture is not a private organization. DUH
Cradle to Grave entitlements here we go! However when it is all gone it is gone! Then the enslaved people dependent on the government/backs of the taxpayers won't be able to take care of themselves. The role of the parent is to make the child as INDEPENDENT as possible.
Not to deny a hungry child, but why are their parents the fattest people in society? They are eating the kids allocations.

Fuzzball.... Where did I say that, "Department of Agriculture is a private organization." Are you illiterate as well as s-----?

lemonjello writes:

in response to 1wildman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Too many assumptions. I couldn't care less what they drive or where they live. If a kid is hungry, then feed them.

Gifted1 writes:

It is ENABLING any way you look at it. Who says they are hungry, or missing meals?
“It fills me up a whole bunch,” Wendy said of her meal on Monday. “I don’t get dinner at home.”
This is BS and we all know it. They don't consider all the drive thru food and pantry full of sweets a dinner.

bcnaples writes:

it's high time the State of Florida and Federal Gov't simply took these kids into custody. That's the only smart and nanny state thing to do. Their parents cannot (will not) buy birth control, provide healthcare insurance, keep the lights on, insurance on the car, or proper and balanced food in the cupboard. The only compassionate thing to do is either provide all of these things for the family (in the interest of the children getting a better education), or simply take the children into state custody and let the State do it. Now that's compassion.

By the way, is the State providing multi-cultural meals for these poor children?

Jaimee writes:

A side effect of this is these kids can no longer be suspended from school for any problems, they are now under federal protection and HAVE to be supplied the federaly funded meals. Once they start, they own the program. The school buses have to wait for them, they have become the #1 priority of the school. In another case a kid was suspended for 3 days, while home alone he burnt the house down and was injured, parents immediately sued the school. So now we have IN SCHOOL suspensions, which require staffing, classrooms and resources for schools that are broke. The inmates really run the asylum

alexia6ciula writes:

Children are the future and this is just another sign of slow economy and the growing gap in between rich and poor . Yes we have needy families in USA right now and the bad news is: They are mostly USA natives. In order to receive free lunch the families have to proof they are needy , they do not give free lunch to just about anybody. Idont mind my tax dollars to go to feed kids . I urge you people posting heartless comments to: if you do not have anything nice to say just do not say anything at all.

alexia6ciula writes:

in response to furball:

lemonjello, you are still calling people names for their opinion. Guess you want free speech taken away. The true pillars of liberalism: arrogance, intolerance and bullying. Wow you fit! Dont' you have a OCW rally to go to?
How much Federal Income tax did you pay? Probably nothing. How many entitlements do you receive monthly?

His delivery may be wrong but the main concept is right. Sorry, you cant touch hungry children its just pathetic

Gifted1 writes:

in response to bcnaples:

it's high time the State of Florida and Federal Gov't simply took these kids into custody. That's the only smart and nanny state thing to do. Their parents cannot (will not) buy birth control, provide healthcare insurance, keep the lights on, insurance on the car, or proper and balanced food in the cupboard. The only compassionate thing to do is either provide all of these things for the family (in the interest of the children getting a better education), or simply take the children into state custody and let the State do it. Now that's compassion.

By the way, is the State providing multi-cultural meals for these poor children?

Read your statement out loud then tell everyone how warped you sound!

CarpeVeritas writes:

Wow! Feeding hungry children will destroy freedom and America as we know it.

Until I read these postings, I thought proper nutrition and education leads to a better chance of having productive members of society.

My bad. Work houses like they used to have in England sounds like the answer to me.

lemonjello writes:

in response to 1wildman:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If I am so blind, then please tell me Mr. All-Seeing that EVERY kid that goes there is a cheat and scoundrel, right? Those two people that make 175k and still send their kids there are losers.

If we as a society cannot take care of our children, disabled and elderly, than we are no better than animals.

Feel free to donate your time, money and energies to whatever you choose. I chose to help kids get a meal. I am really a terrible person....

wonderful (Inactive) writes:

in response to lemonjello:

Too many assumptions. I couldn't care less what they drive or where they live. If a kid is hungry, then feed them.

Even while our seniors starve, the kids love this new 'green' initiative: Soylent Green!

This is the best!

lemonjello writes:

in response to wonderful:

Even while our seniors starve, the kids love this new 'green' initiative: Soylent Green!

This is the best!

Feed ANYONE who is hungry. Is that such a terrible idea?

just_makin_it writes:

Good Lord, you all can argue about ANYTHING! None of these children were asked whether or not they wanted to be brought into this world. None of them asked for the life they were given. They're CHILDREN! If they need dinner, they can have dinner! PERIOD!

bcnaples writes:

in response to lemonjello:

Are you serious? Are there really that many A-holes in this town that would deny a hungry child a meal?

I have lived here for over 20 years now and this place has more pathetic humans than anywhere I have ever been. What a bunch of POS you are. Do you think those children chose to live this life?

NDN needs to have a rule that it is mandatory to pull your head out before you post.

This is not about denying children sustenance, nor is it about ethnicity (which others have suggested). Why all the vitriol towards stupidity?

This is real basic - it is the church, neighbor, friend or family's job to help a family that cannot help, feed, educate their children. It is not the government's constitutional authority or power to take money from me, and or you and your neighbor - to feed an irresponsible person's child.

100 years ago if a mother or father could not feed their child they asked a neighbor or relative to help or take the child. Painful and sad - yes, but it works and as a result people learn the lesson and eventually have fewer children.

Quietcat writes:

Here we go again, another story designed to confuse compassion with a moral hazard. Of course, nobody wants to see kids go hungry. But really, who believes that without "free or reduced" breakfast and lunch programs the streets would be filled with children suffering from starvation? I went to school when the lunch program subsidies were starting and very few kids participated. Why? Even though a lot more would have been eligible, it would have been embarrassing to parents to not be able to put a pb & j sandwich and an apple in a paper bag. That is the goal of these programs- to remove the stigma of accepting handout under the guise of helping a worthy cause. The society is well on the way to ruin due in no small part to the change in thinking brought about by just such programs.

Tkdmom2000 writes:

in response to Bigkondorsback:

I wonder how many Escalades with 24s are there to pick up their needy kids every day?

Exactly.I want to have a soft spot in my heart for a hungry child but those kid's, who claim that they get no other meals after they leave school, parents should be investigated for neglect and/or child abuse plain and simple. It IS cheaper to buy groceries and cook meals at home than it is to get fast food these parents are just too lazy, they take advantage of the system and others genourosity and they just don't give a rat's behind; sad all around.

Ironage writes:

in response to lemonjello:

Are you serious? Are there really that many A-holes in this town that would deny a hungry child a meal?

I have lived here for over 20 years now and this place has more pathetic humans than anywhere I have ever been. What a bunch of POS you are. Do you think those children chose to live this life?

NDN needs to have a rule that it is mandatory to pull your head out before you post.

Totally agree with you. I've been all over our country and this is by far the worst festering racist POS place i've had the misfortune to be stuck in. And YES i'm leaving just as soon as I can. You nasty, lazy, racists can stew in your own bug infested filth for all I care. Enjoy.

KennyR (Inactive) writes:

Don't we have a food stamp program? I'm sorry, but kids NEED to eat dinner with their FAMILIES not with the Government.

lyndaj68#212969 writes:

Most kids, if asked if they are hungry will say Yes! Kids are usually hungry. If parents are using them to get freebies that everyone else pays for so they can use their money elsewhere--well I guess I may not be donating to the hungry at the checkout line at Publix quite as much. If they are really going without--let's help. If they are scamming the system--let the parents pay for their own kids.

alexia6ciula writes:

in response to lyndaj68#212969:

Most kids, if asked if they are hungry will say Yes! Kids are usually hungry. If parents are using them to get freebies that everyone else pays for so they can use their money elsewhere--well I guess I may not be donating to the hungry at the checkout line at Publix quite as much. If they are really going without--let's help. If they are scamming the system--let the parents pay for their own kids.

why evething is got to be a scam to you?. I rather feed the kids that those politian a-- Holes we feed every day with out tax monies!!!
If some parents are bad or poor and do not feed their kids its not a dig of deal. If you pull your head out of your a-- you will see there is many children in the world dying of starvation and abuse. Lets not be like the third world courties and trat our children with love and respect.

alexia6ciula writes:

in response to Tkdmom2000:

Exactly.I want to have a soft spot in my heart for a hungry child but those kid's, who claim that they get no other meals after they leave school, parents should be investigated for neglect and/or child abuse plain and simple. It IS cheaper to buy groceries and cook meals at home than it is to get fast food these parents are just too lazy, they take advantage of the system and others genourosity and they just don't give a rat's behind; sad all around.

Lets not judge parents before knowing the facts.
do you know how many people lost theyr jobs in the fast five years? You may be lucky and not have to resort to this program but some people lost everything , houses, cars and dignity in this bad economy and we need to pull our head out of the sand and see what the reality is somenthimes before sitting on a computer and judge evry parents in that school. i agree some people take advantage of this program but you cannot penalize the real needy people just because of some a-- holes!!

cons3rvative writes:

yes, all the kids should starve because they didn't have the sense to be born into rich, intelligent, American homes like all of you wonderful open minded good Christians who are writing nasty comments about little kids.....

cons3rvative writes:

“If this is
going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish
as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without
condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.” Stephen Colbert

cons3rvative writes:

Matthew 18 vs 5 And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

cons3rvative writes:

Job 34:17-19 "Can he who hates justice govern? Will you condemn the just and mighty One? Is he not the One who says to kings, 'You are worthless,' and to nobles, 'You are wicked,' who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands?”

Deuteronomy 15:7 “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.”

Deuteronomy 26:12 “When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

1 Timothy 6:18 “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

Proverbs 19:17 “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.”

Proverbs 22:9 “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.”

Ezekiel 16:49 "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

Proverbs 14:31 “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

1 John 3:17 “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

James 5:1-6 “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.”

Ironbutterfly writes:

Helping the poor is one thing, a bloated nanny state by design just makes more of what it's pretending to help.
Like the GSA, fleecing the taxpayer without oversight is big business same goes for these so called non-profits.
I can't imagine my kids growing up thinking the government will feed them instead of Mom and Dad, parents are becoming obsolete, but that's the idea is it not?

xmanxray writes:

These programs get started with good intentions, you know "to feed the hungry children". Then it goes unchecked and managed poorly. There are probably a small number of children who really need the meals compared to the large number of families that will take advantage of it. No different than all the other freebies.

johnnybgood writes:

Oh boy...you're darned if you do and darned if you don't. The unfortunate thing is that once you start something like this, it will grow bigger and once you realize that it can't continue, it's too late to stop it. It's government growing bigger and responsiblities of child care turned to the government.

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