Does my afterschool program qualify for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) or the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)?
To qualify for CACFP, the afterschool program must be operated by a private nonprofit or public organization (including schools) that provides care in an afterschool setting. It does not have to be formal enrolled care nor does it have to take place every day, but it must provide regularly scheduled activities for children in a setting that is structured and supervised.
To qualify for NSLP, the afterschool program must meet all the criteria required for CACFP, but it must also be sponsored by a school that is willing to take fiscal and administrative responsibility for NSLP. The afterschool program does not actually have to be operated by the school, nor is it required to be located on school grounds. For example, a school could provide afterschool snacks for a Boys and Girls Club or YMCA that is located off school grounds.
If my program qualifies for both CACFP and NSLP, which one should I use?
If your program is only serving snacks and there is a school willing to be your sponsor, it is easier to use NSLP. The school already has the infrastructure in place and will be responsible for operating the snack program.
If you want to serve meals in addition to or instead of snacks, you should use CACFP, because an evening meal cannot be served through NSLP. Or you can use both programs: the snacks can be served through NSLP and the meals to children up to age 12 through CACFP. Another advantage to using CACFP is that you can plan your own menus.
How do I know if my program is located in a low-income area?
School meal eligibility information is used to determine whether or not your program is located in a low-income area. If a school in your neighborhood has at least 50 percent of the children qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches, your area is considered “low-income”.
It is important to note that even if your afterschool program is located at a middle school or high school or serves older children, you can use nearby elementary school data to qualify your site. Often times, elementary schools have higher rates of free and reduced-price students so it is advantageous to use them to qualify your site.
Contact your state child nutrition agency (if you are using SFSP) or your school food service department (if you are using NSLP) to determine whether or not your site is located in a low-income area.
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If the afterschool program is not located in a low-income area, what income documentation forms do I need to collect?
An afterschool program serving snacks through NSLP relies on the school meal applications already on file with the school or school district. Children who already have a school meals application on file do not have to turn in a second form.
An afterschool program serving meals or snacks through CACFP (and not using area eligibility data) documents income by having families fill out a CACFP application. The school district can share children’s eligibility for free and reduced-price meals with CACFP sponsors so they do not have to collect applications, but the school district is not required to share the information.
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Does my program need to be licensed to qualify for either CACFP or NSLP?
If state law does not require it, afterschool programs are not required to be licensed to participate in CACFP or NSLP. In states that do not require licensure for afterschool programs, the program just needs to meet local and state health and safety standards. Your state CACPF agency can provide additional information on state regulations, licensing requirements and health and safety rules.
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I will be using NSLP to serve snacks. What else do I need to do?
If you are receiving snacks through NSLP, the school is fiscally and administratively responsible for the snacks served. Therefore, the school fills out the application and paperwork, submits the claims, handles the reimbursement, and develops the menus.
That being said, in most situations the school food service department and the afterschool program develop a system of serving the food and filling out the paperwork that meets the needs of both the school food service department and the afterschool program. For example, in some schools, the school food service workers will prepare the snacks and leave them in the refrigerator. The employees of the afterschool program are then responsible for serving the snacks and keeping track of the number of students served.
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Will the snack reimbursements cover all of my costs?
Many afterschool programs find that, if the majority of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals, the CACFP or NSLP reimbursements cover the entire cost of the snacks they serve.
Even if the entire cost of the meal service is not covered, many programs still decide to participate because they feel that feeding the children in their program is important and CACFP and NSLP provide substantial funding for the snacks and meals whose cost would otherwise be entirely covered by program dollars.
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If I use CACFP, should I serve meals or snacks or both?
You can choose to serve both a meal and a snack as long as there is enough time between meals. States determine how much time there must be between meal services. The reimbursement rate for meals is higher than snacks, which typically, makes it more cost-effective for programs to serve meals instead of snacks.
FRAC recommends serving both snacks and meals because doing so provides children in your program with the maximum amount of food allowable through CACFP. If your program is located in a low-income area, you can serve snacks through the low-income area provision so that you receive the highest reimbursement rate for all the children in your program, as long as the program serves a high percentage of low-income children.
Programs that are not located in low-income areas and serve youth 12 and under often decide to serve both a meal and a snack, if the program operates long enough, because the program is required to individually document each child’s household income in order to get snack reimbursements. Once verifying the family income of the participants is done, the bulk of the administrative burden is completed.
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With CACFP, should I have the food provided by a private vendor or should I prepare it on-site?
One of the first decisions afterschool nutrition sponsors must make is whether or not they will prepare their own meals or have them vended. If you have the facilities to produce the food and your program is relatively small, it may be easier and more cost effective to prepare the food on-site. Preparing your own meals also can allow you to have control over the quality of the food and the variety in the menu.
Sponsors also can choose to have the food provided by a vendor. This can make it easier to run afterschool nutrition programs since you do not have to worry about food preparation. Your decision on this may depend upon whether or not there is an entity in your area that is interested in vending the food and doing so at an affordable price. In many places, the school food service department, a community kitchen, or the local anti-hunger organization may be interested in vending the food. The school food service department already has the infrastructure to provide the food and may be interested in providing additional work opportunities for its employees. Some community kitchens and anti-hunger organizations have become vendors because providing meals through the child nutrition programs is a natural outgrowth of their mission. If none of these entities are available, most communities have traditional for-profit vendors you can utilize.
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What support can my state agency provide?
The state child nutrition agency, which is usually located in your state’s department of education, health or social services, administers the summer nutrition programs. It is required to train sponsors each year and will provide you with the materials you need to sponsor a site. Often times, staff can help you with menu planning and provide you with outreach materials. The state agency will also collect all of your paperwork and process your reimbursement.