After-school homework help has become a staple at Columbus Metropolitan Library branches, but Reynoldsburg branch Manager David Dennison said adding snacks to the mix made those hours even more productive.
"The snack is sponsored by the Children's Hunger Alliance," he said. "We offer it right before the homework help begins."
The snack is offered at 4 p.m. every weekday to students from kindergarten age to 12th grade in the Homework Help room, then homework help continues until 7 p.m.
"It is something that began here a few months ago, where we've partnered with Children's Hunger Alliance and they are serving snacks at several area libraries," homework help center specialist Garry Diehl said.
Erica Sevilla, from the Children's Hunger Alliance, said the agency started working with several library branches last fall. She said more than 20 percent of kids in Ohio live in "food insecure" households.
"We were really aware that the students coming to the library oftentimes did not have a healthy snack or meal waiting for them at home after school, so we knew if we could provide meals or snacks, they could focus better on homework," she said.
The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Child and Adult Food Care program.
"We work with 13 local libraries and provide snacks for 250 after-school programs around the state," Sevilla said.
Diehl said a vendor delivers the food, which meets FDA regulations for healthy snacks. Typical snacks are string cheese and grapes, SunChips with salsa or Cheez-It crackers and milk.
To avoid wasting food children won't eat, Diehl divides the snack area into two sections so there is a designated snack table and a share table.
"If a child does not want his milk, he would set it on the share table for another child to pick up, if they want a second milk, for example," he said.
He said outside food is not allowed and children are required to wash their hands first and then use hand sanitizer after they wash their hands.
The added snack means fewer kids are hungry and distracted when doing their homework, he said.
"We noticed that lunch period for some of these kids comes very early in the day," Diehl said. "So if they are eating at 10:30 a.m. and many kids come straight from school to the library, they are not getting anything else to eat.
"They want to get their homework finished, but their focus wanes when they are hungry," he said. "I love that they can come in and put some fuel into their bodies so they can concentrate better on schoolwork."
Before the snack program, he said he saw a lot of fast-food bags.
"The snacks that came into the library before were from the fast-food restaurants or the dollar store," Diehl said. "Now we have nice, wholesome snacks."
He called the program a "win-win" for the library and the community.
"We are also serving kids that might not have money to buy a snack somewhere before they come in," he said. "It's a great program for the library and the community."