WASHINGTON, October 24, 2023 — A significant number of children missed out on nutritious suppers and snacks offered by the Afterschool Nutrition Programs, according to a report released today by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), the nation’s leading anti-hunger advocacy organization.
FRAC’s Afterschool Suppers: A Snapshot of Participation — October 2021 and October 2022 report reveals over 1.15 million children received afterschool suppers through the Afterschool Nutrition Programs on an average school day in October 2022, reaching 339,360 fewer children compared to October 2021.
During the pandemic, participation in afterschool suppers remained relatively stable, with participation increasing by 2 percent in 2020 and 3 percent in 2021. To support access and to overcome the public health challenges created by the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued waivers that allowed all communities to offer afterschool suppers and snacks and addressed operational challenges. With the return to pre-pandemic operations, many afterschool programs and meal sponsors continued to struggle with staffing shortages and increased food prices. Many afterschool programs have either closed or had to limit capacity during the pandemic and have not been able to fully recover.
“Afterschool meals faced setbacks at a time when children urgently needed access to afterschool programming to help overcome the educational, health, and social and emotional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Luis Guardia, president of FRAC. “As children and their families recover from the fallout of the pandemic, substantial investments are needed to bolster their access to afterschool suppers and snacks, and programming, to fuel their health and learning.”
Key report findings:
- Participation in afterschool suppers remained relatively steady during the pandemic, serving 1.42 million children in October 2019, 1.45 million in October 2020, and 1.49 million in October 2021.
- The Afterschool Snack Programs served nearly 1.19 million children on an average weekday in October 2022; 852,065 through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and 335,066 through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
- Total afterschool snack participation decreased from 1.4 million in 2019 to nearly 1.19 million in 2022, driven by 453,032 fewer children receiving snacks through CACFP. NSLP snack participation increased by 202,958 children, but not enough to offset the drop in CACFP snacks.
- Only 38,034 sites served afterschool suppers and/or snacks in 2022, a drop of 5,089 from 2021 when pandemic-era waivers ended. In 2022, sites could only operate in high-poverty communities, significantly limiting access to suppers and snacks for millions of children who need them.
FRAC has set a goal for states to reach 15 children with the Afterschool Supper Program for every 100 children who participate in free or reduced-price school lunch. The Afterschool Supper Program served only a small fraction of the low-income students who participated in the free or reduced-price school lunch program in October 2022, reaching just six children for every 100 children who participated in free or reduced-price school lunch. FRAC also calculated the shortfall in terms of the number of unserved children and the federal dollars lost in October 2022 in each state that did not meet this goal. Nationally, 1.6 million more children would have been served and states would have received an additional $116.5 million during October 2022 if all states had met FRAC’s goal.
Comparing October 2022 to October 2021, 33 states moved in the right direction and increased their participation rate in afterschool suppers. While the majority of states increased participation in October 2022, large drops in a handful of states led to fewer children being served nationwide.
The report comes before the Afterschool Alliance’s annual Lights On Afterschool celebration on October 26, which will shine a light on the important role afterschool programs play in supporting children, families, and communities.
“FRAC’s report is an alarming reminder that afterschool programs are struggling to meet the needs of children and youth as we try to recover from the worst of the pandemic at this time when costs are skyrocketing,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “Alleviating hunger in children should be our highest priority. We need to increase the number of students who can access afterschool suppers and we can only do that if we invest in afterschool programs, which provide a lifeline for youth and families. Decades of research show these programs support children’s health and well-being while offering new opportunities for them to explore, connect, and learn. We need to keep the lights on after school.”
To learn more about Lights On, visit www.afterschoolalliance.org/loa.
The Food Research & Action Center improves the nutrition, health, and well-being of people struggling against poverty-related hunger in the United States through advocacy, partnerships, and by advancing bold and equitable policy solutions. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram.