Thousands of Louisiana’s children are not going hungry thanks to Emily Chatelain’s Three O’Clock Project, as told by a recent Advocate article. The Project was only started four years ago with a goal of making sure local Baton Rouge children in need would have dinner, the project has since grown across South Louisiana with Chatelain expanding her reach due to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to fight hunger for children around the state.
Cheryl Ford from the Martin Luther King Center in Baton Rouge’s Eden Park neighborhood said in a recent interview with The Advocate, “It’s a known fact that when kids leave school, a lot of them, that would be the last meal they would get for the day, but the Three O’Clock Project provides meals to the children who otherwise wouldn’t eat after school.”
When Louisiana schools closed their doors earlier this year, the nonprofit organization stepped up to the task of making sure that students were still receiving food in order to prevent hunger for so many.
“So many families don’t know what’s next, and now they’re in a position where this is something they can depend on and it’s one less thing for them to worry about at home,” said Chatelain.
33-year-old Chatelain got started with the business of feeding students as the owner of School Food and Wellness Group, a Baton Rouge based consulting company that ensures area school breakfast and lunch programs are meeting the correct nutrition standards and that proper government reporting and finances are completed and orderly.
Chatelain knew that there was a federally funded program that would also provide food for after-school programs in order to combat hunger, but when she researched deeper and asked local schools about it, they were unwilling to take on the paperwork and personnel issues.
“I kept getting that kind of pushback from schools not to join the supper program and provide this additional third meal,” said Chatelain. “Yet, I knew those kids would really benefit from it, because a lot of them go home and they don’t have a meal, or they have a meal but there’s nothing healthy.”
Thus, the Three O’Clock Project was born. It might have begun in Baton Rouge, but it quickly spread throughout south Louisiana during the school year and summer enrichment programs for children from low-income families. All meals whether a part of the after-school programs or summer program are federally-funded and administered through the state government. Last summer, it provided about 30,000 meals per day.
Matters were of course complicated when schools closed in mid-March, but the Three O’Clock project partnered with BREC (East Baton Rogue Parish Parks & Recreation) churches, and community organizations to find places where meals could be picked up. Chatelain said the organization has delivered over a million meals to sites for children or guardians to pick them up. The effort began in north Baton Rouge and has spread from there.
About 100 people are involved in cooking, packaging, delivering and distributing meals to fight hunger in East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Ascension, Assumption, Iberville, Jefferson, St, Landry, St. Martin, Vermilion, Acadia, Iberia and Lafayette parishes, Chatelain said.
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