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Program Design, Development, and Quality

Taking Stock of and Improving Your Program’s Food

healthy food

Having made it through the hectic beginning of the new school year, now is a great time to take a fresh look at the food served in your afterschool program.

Food is an important part of any afterschool program, helping to draw in children and to ensure that they are not hungry and can fully benefit from the activities being offered. Is your program providing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low fat milk?

For the millions of children who live in homes struggling to put food on the table and/or are overweight or obese, the adequacy and nutrition quality of the food provided at their afterschool programs is particularly crucial. The federal Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs through the Child and Adult Care Food Program reimburse schools, local government agencies, and private nonprofits for serving meals and snacks at programs.

healthy food

This funding can support programs in serving higher quality meals and snacks. A simple meal could be turkey on whole wheat bread, carrot sticks, apple slices, and milk. And programs that operate long enough can provide both a meal and a snack.

To qualify, sites must be located in low-income areas and offer educational and enrichment activities. Meals and snacks can snacks can be served at programs operating after school, on weekends, and during school vacations and holidays.

Afterschool programs also can improve the quality and appeal of the food served by incorporating local foods into the menu. FRAC recently updated Fresh from the Farm: Using Local Foods in the Afterschool and Summer Nutrition Programs, which provides step by step guidance and best practices.

Grants are available to schools to support Farm to School initiatives. Programs that work with schools can encourage their school nutrition department to apply for these grants, which can be used to incorporate local foods into meals provided through the school, afterschool, and summer nutrition programs.

For breakfast, I had corn flakes with blueberries, a glass of milk, and coffee.

Author Profile: @crystalfitzsimons

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