Fueling Up After School

The federal Child and Adult Care Food Program provides nutritious afterschool snacks and suppers.

Recognizing that children need nutrition when the school day ends, many afterschool programs have long served a snack — often at their own expense. This program offers generous reimbursements for organizations to serve snacks and dinners to children who may otherwise go home to an empty table.

The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 permanently established the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program as part of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The program is open to organizations providing afterschool activities located in areas where at least 50 percent of students are eligible for free and low-cost meals.

Since the program was made permanent in 2010, the number of suppers served throughout the U.S. each year more than quadrupled, according to No Kid Hungry, Share Our Strength. In FY 2015, U.S. schools and other organizations served more than 390 million snacks and meals to children participating in afterschool activities.

Despite this progress, only a fraction of low-income New Jersey students are receiving afterschool meals, according to a report from the Food Research & Action Center.

FRAC’s first report on this critical child nutrition program found that just 4 percent of low-income students receiving free and reduced-price school lunch also received an afterschool supper.

If New Jersey achieved a 15 percent participation rate, the state would capture $2.9 million more in federal funds each year to feed hungry children, according to FRAC’s calculations.

New Jersey has made some progress, however, with the number of sites serving these meals rising to 318 in 2016 — a 25 percent increase since 2016.

The New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign, which NJAHC co-chairs, is working on helping communities increase access to this critical child nutrition.

Find more information about starting an afterschool meals program.