Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs
The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers federally-funded afterschool and summer meal programs, allowing children across the country access to meals during out-of-school time. 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.
Just over 20 million children received free or reduced-price school lunches and more than 12.1 million children received free or reduced-price school breakfasts during the 2015-16 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. Three million children participated in the Summer Nutrition Programs on an average day in July 2016 — which means the programs reached only one in seven children who rely on free and reduced-price meals during the school year.
Since 2012, NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute), in partnership with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), has worked 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, NLC and FRAC have supported more than 70 cities across the country to expand participation in afterschool and summer meal programs and fostered increased city leadership in support of these programs. Through the leadership of local city officials and strong partnerships with meal program sponsors and other key stakeholders in the community, as of 2016 these cities have reached more than 100,000 kids and served more than 10 million meals to children in need!
City Leaders Can Take Action
City leaders are in a unique position to provide support and expertise to help develop and expand 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.
Read NLC’s Issue Brief to learn key steps city leaders can take to support meal programs, including:
- Using their visibility to promote programs
- Sponsoring a meal program
- Incorporating child nutrition into a broader city-wide initiative
- Establishing 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.
In addition to launching new meal sites, CHAMPS cities have created streamlined and comprehensive marketing campaigns to raise awareness within their communities of meal programs generally, and of site locations specifically. Outreach and awareness campaigns have increased the visibility of the meal programs, boosted participation at sites, and improved the overall nutrition and health of children across the community.
Yet, we know this is just the beginning. Too many children are still missing out on these important programs.
The National League of Cites (NLC) and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) have created a toolkit to help city leaders and agencies share successes to further grow participation in the federally funded afterschool and summer meal programs and to inspire others to do the same. The Toolkit focuses specifically on Afterschool Meal programs, and includes:
- Press release to promote cities' work around CHAMPS
- Talking points for city leaders to speak about CHAMPS
- Infographics for current grantee states and CHAMPS alumni
- Social media samples
- Sample mayoral proclamation