The At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program, a relatively new addition to the array of federal child nutrition programs, is beginning to expand across New Jersey.
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.
Because of the way state data had been collected, it is not possible at this time to capture a comprehensive picture of New Jersey’s child participation in afterschool meals programs. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture, which administers this program at the state level, has now changed the way statistics are being collected. (Comparable data is expected in 2017).
It is widely accepted, however, that the program currently reaches just a fraction of children who would benefit.