Afterschool programs are a critical resource for communities and provide measurable benefits to students academically, socially, and behaviorally
But did you know that in addition to providing valuable learning opportunities, afterschool programs also can tap into funding to provide meals alongside enrichment and educational activities?
The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Afterschool Meal Program provides funding to serve suppers and snacks to children after the school day ends, on weekends, and during school holidays. Both a snack and supper can be served to children up to age 18 (and 19 if their birthday is during the school year) at sites in low-income communities that offer educational and enrichment activities, such as schools, recreation centers, YMCAs, and Boys & Girls Clubs.
While participation in the Afterschool Meal Program continues to move in the right direction, much more needs to be done to increase its reach. In fact, the Food Research & Action Center’s report on participation data in the program showed that nearly 1.1 million low-income children benefited from afterschool suppers in October 2016. This means that only one child for every 20 low-income children who participated in school lunch in October 2016 received an afterschool supper.
Currently, thousands of afterschool programs located in low-income communities are only serving a snack, even though they are eligible to serve a supper. One of the simplest strategies to reduce student hunger, improve nutrition, and ensure that children remain engaged and focused is for programs to provide a supper.
Why Serve Suppers Through the Afterschool Meal Program?
- Afterschool suppers support students. Afterschool meals help support children’s health and academic achievement by providing nutritious meals and snacks that combat hunger and improve nutrition. They also can help draw children into afterschool educational and enrichment activities. With these programs, children from struggling families can receive a healthy late afternoon or evening meal, instead of returning home hungry from their afterschool program, often to empty cupboards.
- Afterschool suppers support programming. Many afterschool programs work with tight budgets. When federal nutrition dollars are used, program dollars from other sources that would have been spent on food can be used to serve additional children or improve program quality.
Serving suppers also allow afterschool programs a new opportunity to engage in anti-hunger efforts and strengthen relationships with community partners that may be working on food access.
How Can Afterschool Programs Get Started Serving Meals This Year?
The first step is to connect with your state child nutrition agency, which administers and provides training and technical assistance on operating the programs, and anti-hunger organizations in your community, which often work to increase participation in afterschool meals. They also may be able to connect you with meal providers in your area (such as schools) or work with you to determine the best way to incorporate meals into your programs.
The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) has resources to help you learn more about the Afterschool Nutrition Programs, determine if your program is eligible, and identify successful strategies for implementing them. Learn more at FRAC.org.
For breakfast, I had a bagel with cream cheese and a cup (or three) of coffee.