Afterschool Meal Program Basics

The afterschool program qualifies to participate in Afterschool Meals, as opposed to each individual child. Once the afterschool program qualifies, all children who participate are served meals with federal dollars. All of the meals are reimbursed at the highest rate or the “free” rate (unlike school lunch which provides a free, reduced-price, or paid reimbursement which is based on the individual household income of the children). To qualify, the afterschool program must:

  • Be located in a low-income area, defined as an area where 50 percent or more of the students in the local elementary, middle, or high school are qualified for free or reduced-price school meals. Since the afterschool program qualifies according to its location, there is no requirement to collect information on children’s individual household income.
  • Offer educational and enrichment activities. The activities can include academic support, tutoring, mentoring, arts and crafts, music, nutrition education, or community service projects. Sports and recreation can be part of an afterschool program as long as participation is open to all. Competitive sports teams or leagues are not eligible.
  • Meet health and safety standards or, if required by state or local rules, be licensed for child care. There is no federal requirement for afterschool programs to be licensed to participate. However, some states and localities require certain afterschool programs to be licensed, in which case they must comply in order to get the federal funds. Programs not required to be licensed by state or local rules must simply meet state and local health and safety standards to participate.

Extended day schools, in addition to afterschool programs (both school and community-based) can participate in Afterschool Meals as long as the school day is at least one hour longer than the traditional school day.

Age Requirements
Funding is available to feed children age 18 and younger. Youth who turn 19 during the school year remain eligible until the end of the school year.

Days of Operation
Afterschool Meals feed children at programs that operate after school, on weekends, and school holidays during the regular school year. It can also feed children attending year-round schools while the children are on-track (the school is in session). During the summer, programs may be eligible to participate in the Summer Nutrition Programs. Follow this link to more information on Summer Nutrition Programs.

Meal Service
Afterschool programs can serve the meal at any point during the program, including right when the children arrive. Programs operating after school can serve supper; those that operate on weekends and school holidays can serve a breakfast, lunch or supper.

Programs that run long enough hours may serve a snack in addition to one meal. For example, a Saturday program could serve lunch and a snack or an afterschool program could serve supper and a snack. The length of time that must pass between serving the meal and the snack varies from state to state, because there is no Federal requirement and State CACFP agencies have the authority to determine the necessary duration. Contact the appropriate state agency to learn more.

Available to All
Any afterschool program that meets the eligibility requirements and is willing to comply with program rules can receive funding. In this respect, it is different from grant programs (such as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program) that make grants on a limited or competitive basis. The Afterschool Meals funding stream is open-ended.

Funding Based on Participation
Participating afterschool programs are reimbursed for each meal they serve, which means the funding increases as the program grows. For example, an afterschool program that is serving meals to 50 children could receive about $24,900 per year in federal nutrition dollars. Serving a snack in addition to a meal increases the funding to more than $31,700 per year. (Calculations are based upon 2011-2012 reimbursement rates during a 180 day school year.)