WASHINGTON, October 20, 2020 — As states move into phases of reopening and recovery, reaching more children with afterschool suppers and snacks will be critical to addressing exacerbated childhood hunger caused by COVID-19. According to the Afterschool Suppers: A Snapshot of Participation report released today by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), more than 1.4 million low-income children benefited from Afterschool Nutrition Programs on an average day in October 2019, with participation in afterschool suppers increasing by more than 86,900 from the prior year.
Yet despite these gains, the report found nutrition programs fell short of meeting the nutritional needs of children and more action is needed to ensure children receive the healthy food they need for their physical and mental health and development.
“With children losing access to meals that support their health and well-being due to closures and millions of families are having to choose between paying bills and putting food on the table, afterschool suppers offer an important opportunity to provide children with the nutrition they need to offset this hunger and economic crisis,” said Guardia.
Afterschool Nutrition Programs operators have adapted and responded to the new normal by creating innovative ways to distribute suppers and snacks safely thanks to flexibilities provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the early months of the pandemic.
While national participation in the Afterschool Supper Program increased in 2019, across all states and the District of Columbia (D.C.), only D.C. reached FRAC’s benchmark for states to serve supper to at least 15 children for every 100 who participated in the school-day free or reduced-price school lunch program. All states and the District of Columbia have room to grow in the 2020-2021 school year and beyond, especially as the fallout of the pandemic continues.
When states fail to meet the benchmark, they miss out on federal funding and children lose the opportunity to receive a nutritious meal. According to the report, six states each lost out on more than $5 million in federal reimbursements in October 2019 and failed to serve the most children, including Texas ($9.7 million; 146,459 children); New York ($8.4 million; 127,340 children); Georgia ($6.6 million; 100,095 children); Florida ($6.2 million; 94,600 children); North Carolina ($5.4 million; 81,907 children); and Pennsylvania ($5.3 million; 80,319 children).
For more states to reach FRAC’s benchmark, significant investments into afterschool programs must be made at the federal, state, and local levels. Additional funding will create more opportunities for enrichment programs, which provide an important foundation for afterschool meals, and will be necessary to counter the educational inequities that the pandemic is amplifying.
“Afterschool programs have had to quickly adapt to how they serve suppers and snacks during COVID-19, but with additional investments in both nutrition and out-of-school time programs, we can ensure children receive the meals they need to help keep hunger at bay,” said Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance. The Afterschool Alliance will celebrate afterschool programs on October 22 with its annual national Lights On Afterschool.
For 50 years, the Food Research & Action Center has been the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.