Written collaboratively by Jennifer Folliard and Paige Pappadackis.
The At-Risk Afterschool Meal Program is a part of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) that focuses on getting children a nutritious meal after the bell rings. For some, this may fill the gap that may occur from lunch that day until the next morning at breakfast. Many agencies can participate in this program, but it must operate in an area where 50% of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Education or enrichment activities must be included in the program to be eligible to receive reimbursement. Children participating in the program, under the age of 18 (19 if the child has a birthday during the school year), will receive one meal and one snack or two snacks. This program can run through the regular school year, which includes weekdays after school, weekends, holidays, or school vacations (e.g. Spring Break). Summer months are not included. This presents a unique opportunity for children to receive meals and snacks virtually every day of the school year if operations permit.
If you are looking to start an Afterschool Meal Program, there are a few things to consider. You need to choose a place to hold this program. It needs to be in a school or a building in an area that is within a boundary of a school that has at least half of their students eligible for free and reduced lunch. Next, you will need to decide how you want to run the program. This would include the time and dates the program will run for, staffing, meals and snacks, and what education or enrichment you want to provide to the kids. For example, you could run your program in a school, during the regular school year, including weekends, holidays, and school breaks from 4:00pm – 7:00pm and serve your meal at 4:30pm and snack at 6:30pm. You could hold tutoring sessions for the kids during the program as part of the education or enrichment piece and decide how much staff you need to run this program. If you find that this may too much for you or that you need a little help, you can also work with a sponsor to help with paperwork or to provide the meals for your program. To get started, you will need to contact the Child Adult Nutrition Services (CANS) office to get access to the forms and start the process of applying or visit the website. Getting a program like this started may seem like a big task, but it could make all the difference in your community. You can also refer to the Center for Best Practices website for more information.