Nearly 1.1 million low-income children benefited from federally-supported afterschool suppers in October 2016. For many low-income children, the suppers offered at afterschool programs through the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program help stave off hunger until they eat a school breakfast the next day.
To receive funds for nutrition, afterschool provider are required to offer educational and enrichment programs. This provides opportunities for children to learn, be active, and stay safe while their parents are working. Without these programs and the snacks and suppers they provide, millions more children would be at home, unsupervised, hungry and at risk during the afternoon and evening hours when schools are closed and their parents are still at their jobs.
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) is the largest federal funding source for afterschool and summer learning programs, serving 1.7 million children. It is a proven program that makes both short- and long-term investments in the healthy growth and development of children living in low-income households. The 21st CLCC program also provides the platform for tens of thousands of programs across the country to offer nutritious afterschool suppers and snacks — more than 44,000 afterschool programs participated in the Afterschool Nutrition Programs in October 2016.
Still, not enough children in need have access to high quality afterschool programs and the suppers they provide. Nationally, only one in every 20 children living in low-income households who rely on school lunch received an afterschool supper in October 2016.
Demand for quality afterschool programs far outstrips supply in urban, suburban and rural communities across the country. The unmet need is especially great in low-income communities, where more than half of children (56 percent) not in an afterschool program would be enrolled in one if it were available to them.
It is positive that Congress has finally passed a fiscal 2018 spending bill that modestly increases funding for 21st CLCC and many other education programs that President Trump proposed eliminating in his fiscal 2019 budget. Our young people need a continuing strong commitment from both Congress and the president to provide all children with quality afterschool programs that serve nutritious food children need to have the energy and concentration to continue learning after the school day ends.
The Food Research & Action Center and the Afterschool Alliance will double down on our work with national and state partners to promote the benefits of the 21st CCLC and the Afterschool Nutrition Programs so that more children in communities across the country have what they need after school: programs that provide safe, supervised, educational activities that help them succeed in school and in life, and the meals and snacks they need to grow up healthy.
James Weill is president of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), and has served in this role since 1998.
Jodi Grant has been executive director of the Afterschool Alliance since 2005. The Afterschool Alliance works to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs.
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