In Austin's Poorest High Schools, Student Athletes Are Now Served Dinner
In the Travis High School locker room, there is a basket of apples for students to grab a snack after practice. That basket is usually empty by 5:30 p.m., according to students, when the varsity and junior varsity football teams finish practice and head to the cafeteria for study hall.
"I'm always hungry after practice," says Darrell Davis, a sophomore. "I'm always hungry, period."
Starting this year, Austin ISD is making sure student athletes go home with more than just an apple. The district is offering evening meals to all athletes at seven high schools: Akins, Crockett, Eastside Memorial, Lanier, LBJ, Reagan and Travis. A majority of students at all of those schools are considered low-income and qualify for free or reduced price lunch. However, the evening Grab and Go meals are offered to all athletes who play football, tennis, cross country, and volleyball. Meals are also offered to students on school dance teams and band.
Nationwide, more students are being served three meals a day at school, and that includes the Austin Independent School District. The federal government reimburses AISD for every meal they serve through the Federal School Meals Act.
On this day, the meal is a small sandwich, an apple, carrot sticks, sunflower seeds and milk.
“These guys ate at 12, you know, and it’s six [p.m.] right now," says Joe Frank Martinez, the athletic director and football coach at Travis. “If their parents are working two jobs or their parents, maybe they’re working, when they get home they may only eat cereal, they may eat late tonight, they may not eat, so this helps out a lot. Especially when you’re an athlete — because it’s a long day.”
Martinez says not only does he know his kids are all getting fed, but they’re eating a more balanced diet.
“A lot of our kids, you see them at lunch time, and they’re eating Flaming Hot Cheetos and a Dr. Pepper and I’m like, 'What are you doing? You’re going to go to practice a little bit, and you’re not going to have any energy left.' We try to tell them this is like fuel, it’s like a car. You gotta put gas in the car, you gotta change the oil because that’s going to make it all run," says Martinez.
AISD is hoping to expand the program to middle school athletics, too.