Ensuring Children Get Healthy Meals After School

The Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) new report, Afterschool Suppers: A Snapshot of Participation, found that 1.3 million children were served afterschool suppers in October 2018, a 10.4 percent increase from October 2017.

Unfortunately, the program still falls short of the need. Nationally, only 1 child received an afterschool supper for every 16 children who received a free or reduced-price school lunch.

Since 2012, NLC partnered with FRAC on the CHAMPS initiative to work with cities to reduce childhood hunger through funding from the Walmart Foundation. Over the past seven years, CHAMPS has provided funding to nearly 80 cities.

While afterschool supper participation is moving in the right direction, far more work is needed to increase the reach of the Afterschool Supper Program and ensure every eligible child receives a healthy late afternoon or evening meal before returning home. There are a number of effective strategies that localities can employ to expand children’s access to afterschool suppers.

[Learn more about collaborating with school officials plus nine other ways cities can combat childhood hunger here.]

In 2018, CHAMPS awarded grants to six cities to launch city-wide, anti-hunger campaigns, which included efforts to expand children’s access to afterschool meals:

  • In Allentown, Pennsylvania, the City Health Bureau launched Healthy Kids, Healthy Allentown to raise awareness about child nutrition programs and improve children’s access to afterschool meals. The campaign launched Firehouse Fridays in partnership with the Allentown Health Bureau, the Greater Valley YMCA and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 302, to provide afterschool meals at firehouses every Friday during the school year. To learn more about Allentown, see their feature in our report.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVIPfEWHhMU&w=560&h=315]

  • In Durham, North Carolina, the City of Durham and Durham Public Schools have partnered on a campaign to improve children’s access to afterschool meals by bringing more schools on board;
  • In Jackson, Mississippi, Jackson Meals Matter is improving children’s year-round access to meals by encouraging summer meal sites to also run afterschool nutrition programs;
  • In Little Rock, Arkansas, the Be Mighty campaign is building on the success of its efforts to expand children’s access to summer meals by working with Little Rock School District to serve afterschool meals at schools;
  • In Miami Gardens, Florida, Live Healthy Miami Gardens, is working with local schools to promote afterschool meal sites and ensure children and families are aware of meal sites; and
  • In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Think Orange is moving the needle in its community by serving nutritious, hot meals to students at YMCA’s and community centers through their partnership with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.

CHAMPS cities are working hard to meet children where they are and improve their access to afterschool suppers. Any city could champion the Afterschool Nutrition Programs and close a hunger gap that exists for millions of low-income children across the country.

Now is the time to build on the momentum of the expansion of this critical program and ensure every child receives the support they need to learn and grow.

About the Author: Nighisti Dawit is a child nutrition policy analyst at the Food Research & Action Center.