The following article was written by Kathy Green, No Kid Hungry Texas

 Director for the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA) August Newsletter. The original article can be found here

Texas public schools are in the middle of a population boom, with an estimated 60,000 more kids added to the rolls every year. These children come from every background imaginable, but many from low income families have one thing in common: There isn’t always enough to eat at home.

The effects of hunger on a child’s development and future success are grave. Those who grow up in food insecure homes are more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school, experience developmental impairments, and have more social and behavioral problems. Educators are frequently some of the first adults to recognize these issues as signs of a hunger problem at home. Kids don’t readily admit to this situation.

It doesn’t have to be this way. School meals are one of the most effective and efficient ways to make sure kids are getting more of the nutrition they need to grow up healthy, educated and strong. While many students are receiving breakfast or lunch at school, many also need nutrition later in the day. That’s where after school meals are a lifeline.

Schools can help these kids receive dinner or an afterschool snack by using the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). CACFP is a federally reimbursed nutrition program, similar to the National School Lunch and Breakfast (NSLP/SBP) programs. Students receive a nutritious snack or meal while participating in afterschool activities such as tutoring, aftercare, or athletics Schools are reimbursed per meal or snack, at a rate higher than the NSLP/SBP reimbursements.

Afterschool meals are good for students. In schools across the nation where this program has been offered, school staff report increased participation in afterschool activities, including tutoring; improved behavior among students; and enhanced performance in afterschool activities. One school nutrition director who started the program in Virginia said, “This is an essential program in our district. The kids are willing to stay after school for tutoring because of the hot meal. The graduation rate has increased, and the athletes are gaining weight and muscle and performing better.”

These meals are also good for parents! In a survey of low-income parents, almost 60% said that it was financially difficult to provide food for their kids after school. Parents also recognize that on their own, their children often eat junk foods like cookies, chips, and candy after school. A CACFP afterschool meal or snack provides these kids with a nutritious option.

Finally, afterschool meals are good for schools. Participating in CACFP can have other benefits as well. When suppers are served through CACFP, the high reimbursement can sometimes allow for hiring new staff or offering additional hours or overtime to existing staff and/or offset equipment or administrative costs. The smaller audience for the afterschool meal can also provide an opportunity for the nutrition staff to test menu items for lunch and breakfast.

As you work with your Campus Advisory Committee to consider the student wellness needs in your campus improvement plan, afterschool meals and snacks can be part of it. No Kid Hunger Texas, a partner of TEPSA, works with school districts and community organizations across the state to ensure that every child receives three meals a day. No Kid Hungry Texas provides technical assistance and grants to help with afterschool meals as well as breakfast and summer meals. We can help you meet the changing student population coming through you school doors.

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