FRAC’s Afterschool Suppers: A Snapshot of Participation report released this week finds that in October 2017, 1.2 million children received an afterschool supper, an 11 percent increase from October 2016, and 1.6 million children received a snack on an average weekday. More than 46,000 afterschool programs provided a supper, a snack, or both through the Afterschool Nutrition Programs in October 2017.

This rate of increase was more than double the growth seen between October 2015 and October 2016, demonstrating the impact that outreach, collaboration, and implementation of best practices can have on reaching more children with this important program.

While positive gains have been made over the last eight years since the Afterschool Supper Program became available nationwide, afterschool suppers are still falling short of the need — serving 1.2 million children during an average day in October 2017 meant only 1 in 19 of the low-income children who participate in school lunch during the school year received an afterschool supper.

Fortunately, there are a number of successful strategies to use to push increased participation in afterschool suppers. These include switching the offering from snacks to suppers (or serving both snacks and suppers); recruiting more school districts to provide afterschool suppers and snacks; engaging schools in sponsoring other sites in the community; supporting and expanding year-round participation; streamlining and simplifying the Afterschool Supper Program; serving meals during weekends, holidays, and school closures; and improving meal quality.

However, to maximize participation most effectively in the Afterschool Nutrition Programs, there must be enough afterschool programs offering educational and enrichment activities that every family can access and afford. Afterschool programming not only draws children into safe and engaging learning environments, it also provides a critical — and required — foundation for providing federally reimbursable afterschool meals. Increasing public (federal, state, and local) and private funding to operate afterschool programs in low-income communities is key to ensuring more students have access to afterschool meals.

Partners from every level — the U.S. Department of Agriculture; state agencies; and anti-hunger, afterschool, and child advocates — need to intensify their efforts to ensure there are enough afterschool programs serving children — and serving meals — so that every child has access to the nutrition and programming they need to support their academic achievement, health, and well-being. FRAC’s resources and research can support your efforts to increase afterschool meals participation in your state and local community.

Learn more about closing the afterschool hunger gap in Afterschool Suppers: A Snapshot of Participation.