Effective Outreach Strategies
Because the Afterschool Meal Program is new in most states, there is tremendous room to quickly increase participation in the program. Many eligible afterschool programs may not know that the federal funds are available. And its newness means that there are opportunities to create systems in local communities that make it easier for afterschool programs to participate, such as recruiting sponsors to serve multiple sites. New states also can benefit from lessons learned and best practices in states that already run the program.
This section includes outreach strategies shared by state agencies and anti-hunger organizations currently conducting outreach to encourage groups to sponsor the program sample outreach materials that you can use as templates for your own efforts.
In order for children to have access to meals, their afterschool program must participate in the federal afterschool meal initiative as a sponsor or a site. Therefore, outreach is directed at the afterschool programs that are eligible to participate, and at larger entities that may sponsor the program for multiple afterschool programs in the community, as well as to families with children to encourage them to go to participating sites.
Identifying and Recruiting Sponsors
Schools, local government agencies, and private nonprofit organizations are eligible to operate the Afterschool Meal Program. In conducting outreach, many state child nutrition agencies and anti-hunger advocates focus on recruiting those groups which have the capacity to sponsor multiple afterschool programs, allowing more afterschool programs to participate and more children to be served:
- School Nutrition Departments are experts in operating federal child nutrition programs, and many afterschool programs operate in schools. Even though participating in the Afterschool Meal Program means operating the Child and Adult Care Food Program (a federal child nutrition program and income stream separate from the regular school nutrition programs), a growing number of school nutrition directors are beginning to operate the Afterschool Meal Program. Their experience working with the federal programs and state nutrition agencies makes them natural sponsors.
- Summer Food Service Program Sponsors successfully operate one federal child nutrition program and have relationships with summer programs, many of which also run afterschool programs during the school year. A Summer Food sponsor can transition to the Afterschool Meal Program at the end of the summer, which enables its summer sites to serve meals during the school year, gives children access to the nutritious meals they need year-round, and allows the sponsor to employ the same staff all year long.
- Local government agencies, such as parks and recreation agencies, local health departments, and neighborhood services agencies, often have the administrative capacity to operate the federal child nutrition programs, and frequently local governments provide afterschool programming or are charged with meeting these types of social service needs of local families.
- Kids Cafes, food banks, community kitchens, and community action agencies are focused on reducing hunger and a growing number are interested in operating the Afterschool Meal Program.
- Additional nonprofits that could participate include YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, Police Athletic/Activities Leagues, and faith-based organizations.
Developing Valuable Partnerships
In many states and communities, there are organizations that have relationships or provide technical assistance to afterschool programs or that have members which are potential sponsors. These organizations can play an important role in promoting the Afterschool Meal Program. Many of these groups have their own newsletters, websites, and email list-serves and host meetings, conferences, conference calls and webinars, all of which provide an important opportunity for Afterschool Meal Program outreach. Forming partnerships with these organizations and networks can make outreach more successful. Examples include:
Simple outreach that state agencies, anti-hunger, afterschool and child advocates can do to increase participation includes handing out information at meetings and posting or sharing information through different communication channels, such as through newsletters, Facebook, and websites. This will result in some calls to the state CACFP agency and is a good way to pass information about the new Afterschool Meal Program to potential participants. More in-depth and effective outreach encompasses a more sustained effort. Here are some outreach strategies that have shown success.
- Distributing information. Newsletter articles, postings on websites, Twitter and Facebook and handing out brochures and flyers at meetings are all ways to get the word out.
- Summits. Holding a statewide summit provides the opportunity to share information about the Afterschool Meal Program and build excitement. You can invite afterschool programs in the community to attend. You also can raise the visibility of the meeting by inviting elected officials and the media.The Missouri AfterSchool Network, the Missouri Association of Social Welfare, the Missouri Department of Health (the state agency that administers the Afterschool Meal Program), and FRAC recently organized a summit for afterschool programs in that state. Speakers included the state agency, successful sponsors of the Afterschool Meal Program, and FRAC. More than 50 afterschool providers attended.
- Conferences, webinars and conference calls. New Mexico Appleseed hosted two conferences geared toward school nutrition directors and other officials to promote the new Afterschool Meal Program. Speakers included representatives from the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, the USDA Southwest Regional Office, and FRAC. Because the program is so new, no one in New Mexico was running it when the conference calls occurred, so Appleseed invited a school nutrition director from Connecticut to speak about her Afterschool Meal Program and the benefits of participating.The California AfterSchool Network’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee hosted a webinar to promote the Afterschool Meal Program. More than 100 people tuned in and hundreds more viewed it on-line later.
- One-on-one communication through meetings or calls. This may seem like a labor intensive way of doing outreach, but it can be a good way to make sure that eligible participants know about the new program. Priority can be given to representatives of entities that will serve the most children—for example, school nutrition directors, Summer Food sponsors, and large afterschool program providers.
- Community Meetings. Pulling together the key stakeholders to discuss the Afterschool Meal Program and how to increase participation is a good way to encourage a school or a government agency to participate in the Afterschool Meal Program.The Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force facilitated a community meeting in Canby, Oregon that focused on how the Afterschool Meal Program would benefit the Canby School District and the community. Fifty people from the community attended the meeting. All were in favor of the program. School officials participated in the meeting. Convinced that it had the community’s support, the school district agreed to participate in the Afterschool Meal Program.
- Media. The Afterschool Meal Program is “news,” and feeding children at an afterschool program can make a great story on the local news or in the newspaper. Media attention can help raise the visibility of the program.D.C. Hunger Solutions worked successfully with a reporter at the Washington Post on a story to highlight the Afterschool Meal Program.