Why add these meal programs to your own full plate? Because hunger strikes after school, too. The subject of feeding children after the final bell has rung is a fascinating one to explore. Both the “whys” and the “hows” are complex. At its most fundamental, serving afterschool snacks or suppers provides more loops in the hunger safety net. The children who are lining up early to partake in school breakfast are among those who are desperate for every form of food assistance available. There are many other good reasons to navigate the regulatory waters of yet another federal school-based meal program. Many children, from the entire spectrum of socio-economic demographics, participate in afterschool enrichment programs, and it can be a long, long afternoon between lunch in the cafeteria and dinner at home. An energy boost can make the difference in how well they respond to the afterschool program, whether it’s homework help or physical fitness fun. You can ensure that students have access to a nutritious snack, providing a better alternative to the empty-calorie options they might seek out on their own. Your district’s participation in Afterschool Meal Programs also can support additional labor hours for part-time employees and generate added revenue to your operation that can help offset rising expenses or can be reinvested to support valuable enhancements. Snacks and suppers also present an exciting challenge—indeed, the “how-to” dimension of such programs is vast. All the factors that make school meal operations so individual are at play: geographic location, size of school/district, grade level, demographics, infrastructure, labor pool, availability of afterschool programs, potential partners inside and outside the school community, etc. It’s not easy—nothing in school nutrition is—but once you crack the code, the rewards are rich. As with so many other topics covered by School Nutrition, no matter how deep our coverage dives into snacks and suppers, the editorial team is acutely (and somewhat painfully) aware that we’ve only scratched the surface. We could devote several months to this singular subject and still leave you with unanswered questions. Nonetheless, we’re giving it our best shot, with articles from our friends at No Kid Hungry about helpful approaches and new frontiers (supper in the classroom?!), as well as a general overview of afterschool programs. Our hope is that this month’s magazine piques your interest and provides you with enough inspiration and information to take the next step in exploring the options. In 6, 12 or 18 months, will you be sharing your best practice ideas for offering snacks and suppers? We look forward to finding out.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
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