CACFP-AT RISK and Hungry for Wins: Food to Fuel Your After-School Life
The after school food program nourishes more than 77,340 kids in Minnesota during the school year, increasing their academic success, supporting them with a supervised, safe, enriching environment, and at times, working to ease their parents’ burden. The opportunity for growth in the program is significant, in that 92 percent of the federally funded meals are reaching the kids. In addition, the resulting number of unclaimed meals translates to $36,000,000 in lost corresponding revenue to the state.
The At-risk* Afterschool Program, a component of the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service Child and Adult Care Food Program, (CACFP), allows educational or enrichment programs in eligible low-income areas to serve a meal and/or snack each day to kids and teens ages 18 and under. In 2015 the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act instituted nutrition standards to guarantee that the program delivered food that was healthy and balanced throughout the day.
*“At-risk,” in this context, refers to the challenge of meeting kids’ nutritional needs outside of the school day, when they are not at home.
Organizations may participate in the At-risk Afterschool as an independent after school program, or as a site under a sponsor. Based on previous year school data, a program can qualify for snack and meal reimbursements at the free rate, if located in a school attendance area where at least 50% of the enrolled student population is eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.
Hunger Impact Partners (HIP) focuses on children and their nutritional needs. We want to ensure that kids can access nutritious food and, in the process, activate the federal reimbursement funds to return to those feeding sites to sustain their programs.
Many kids receive their primary meals from the school breakfast and lunch programs. By providing a nutritious after school meal, we can ensure that they will be amply fueled to continue their learning and after school endeavors and not go to bed hungry. The At-risk Afterschool program has an enrichment requirement, so kids are not just receiving fuel in the form of a meal – but fueling their minds, interests and talents through instruction and a host of activities, such as athletics, drama, debate, College Ready, special interest clubs and other extra-curricular pursuits.
We know that the hours between 3 and 6 are when kids are at greatest risk for committing juvenile crime, being victimized by juvenile crime or engaging in unsafe activities. Mitigating this risk with an option to recreate, socialize, grow knowledge, skills and develop talents in a supervised setting is a significant benefit for parents and one that nets improved academic success for students.
The barriers to participation include; lack of exposure to the program and its value, stigma, lack of a kitchen or equipment to serve meals, schools that are not adequately staffed or equipped to address meal schedules, insufficient sponsors to provide meals and administrative hurdles to meet federal requirements.
Our Approach to Discovering and Implementing Sustaining Solutions. Hunger Impact Partners takes a business approach to the social problem of childhood hunger in Minnesota. As a backbone organization within the framework of Collective Impact, we work statewide to remove barriers by partnering with educators, school officials and state agencies that administer Federal Nutrition programs, as well as business, philanthropy and community leaders. HIP uses a proprietary data analytics tool – the Child Nutrition Index - to pinpoint the areas of greatest need and customizes strategies to increase meals participation, such as a one-time investment in infrastructure and equipment that can sustain feeding of children while drawing down federal nutrition funding for decades to come. We focus on improving processes and capacity in existing programs and leveraging their federal dollars to sustain feeding at-risk children.
Our Hungry for Wins Initiative, launched in May of 2018, focuses specifically on growing participation in after school programming among high school kids and is designed to address not only food insecurity and nutrition, but disparities in after school program participation, school day attendance, academic achievement and graduation rates.