Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs

To take part in the newest phase of CHAMPS, click here.

Hunger and food insecurity can have devastating long-term effects on children and the communities in which they live. Students suffering from hunger are more likely to struggle in school and are at greater risk of being in poor health.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides federally funded meals through the Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs. Because this funding is guaranteed year to year as part of the Afterschool Meal Program and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) program, the organizations operating these programs are fully reimbursed for the cost of the meals. 

Nearly 20 million children received free or reduced-price school lunches and more than 10.5 million children received free or reduced-price school breakfasts during the 2011-12 school year.  However, for many of these students, the end of the school day or school year means reduced access to healthy meals and an increased likelihood of going hungry.  The number of children who participate in summer nutrition programs is only about 15 percent of the number who rely on subsidized school lunches.


NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, in partnership with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), is working to reduce childhood hunger by expanding participation in federally subsidized afterschool and summer meals programs through the Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS) initiative. 

Since the project launched in 2012, NLC and FRAC have supported 45 cities across the country to expand participation in afterschool and summer meal programs and fostered increased city leadership in support of these programs.  Currently, NLC and FRAC are working with 19 cities as part of the CHAMPS initiative. During 2013-2014,  15 cities participated and in 2012, the initiative's inaugural year, 11 cities participated in CHAMPS.

Through the leadership of local city officials and strong partnerships with meal program sponsors and other key stakeholders in the community, these cities reached over 39,000 kids and served 4.9 million meals to children in need!

Now in its third year, this initiative draws upon our experience in supporting city efforts to connect their residents to federal benefits and improve local afterschool programs, as well as FRAC's expertise in advancing best practices and policies to reduce hunger in communities across the country.

City Leaders can Take Action    

City leaders are in a unique position to provide support and expertise to help develop and expand the Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs in their communities. There are several ways that mayors and city agencies can work to increase access to and participation at meal sites. 

City leaders can take steps to promote meal programs in several ways, including:

  • Use their visibility to promote programs;
  • Sponsor a meal program;
  • Incorporate child nutrition into a broader city-wide initiative; and
  • Establish a local out-of-school time meals workgroup or taskforce.

Partnering with schools and nonprofits to increase meal program participation is an effective way to for city leaders to leverage their position and reach as many kids as possible in their communities.