FRAC’s report, Afterschool Suppers: A Snapshot of Participation was released this week. The report finds that almost 1.5 million children received a supper through the available Afterschool Nutrition Programs in October 2020 when compared to October 2019, an increase of 2.6 percent, or 37,317 children. The Afterschool Nutrition Programs included the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
While the Afterschool Supper Program was able to experience modest growth in October 2020, it still only reached 1 in 12 children who participated in school lunch during a time of elevated food insecurity. A survey of households’ experience with food access showed that in October 2020, 12 percent of those with children reported they did not have enough to eat. Black and Latinx families were disproportionately impacted, with reported rates of food insecurity at over 15 percent.
Looking ahead, it will take targeted investments and collaboration on all levels to ensure that the Afterschool Nutrition Programs are not only able to continue to grow, but to also meet the increased need as the dust settles from COVID-19.
Fortunately, there are clear steps forward to expand the reach of the Afterschool Nutrition Programs so they better serve all of the families who need them.
- Child Nutrition Reauthorization. The upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization offers Congress an important opportunity to make long-term policy improvements to the Afterschool Nutrition Programs. One key proposal would allow all sponsors the opportunity to provide meals year-round through SFSP, which is less administratively burdensome than CACFP. Lowering the area eligibility threshold that sites must meet to provide meals and snacks from 50 percent, which has been an option through waivers during COVID-19, would make more low-income communities eligible to participate. Learn more about ways to strengthen the Afterschool Nutrition Programs.
- Leveraging and Maximizing Funding for Afterschool Programs. It also will be critical that the underlying afterschool enrichment programs, which traditionally go hand in hand with afterschool suppers and snacks, are championed and supported. Policymakers are already recognizing the important role these programs will play in COVID-19 recovery: the most recent COVID-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, included $30 billion in funding to support summer and afterschool programs on the state and local level. Advocates on every level should ensure that this funding is fully utilized and that any new afterschool programs are aware of the option to participate in the Afterschool Nutrition Programs. Learn more about this funding opportunity.
- Revisiting Lessons Learned and Best Practices to Increase Access. While COVID-19 has presented new challenges and considerations for expanding the reach of afterschool suppers and snacks, there remains an important opportunity to use both the lessons learned from the last year-and-a-half alongside proven best practices to make substantial strides forward in supporting and expanding the Afterschool Nutrition Programs. Learn more about opportunities to increase the reach of the Afterschool Nutrition Programs.
As they do every year, the Afterschool Nutrition Programs have played a vital role in decreasing childhood hunger by providing children nutritious suppers and snacks. This has been even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is important to celebrate these gains in light of the challenges introduced by the pandemic, participation is still too low, and it is critical that the Afterschool Nutrition Programs are better positioned to meet the growing need moving forward.
Learn more about closing the afterschool hunger gap in Afterschool Suppers: A Snapshot of Participation.