Child Nutrition

Afterschool programs can—and do—play an important role in providing children access to nutritious meals.

Congress could reauthorize the federal child nutrition programs, including those that serve students in the afterschool hours and the summertime, in 2020. 13 million children (17.9 percent) under the age of 18 live in food insecure households. Here you will find a variety of resources, links and policy tools related to that process and that contribute to the goal of promoting increased access to healthy foods in summer and afterschool programs.

Policy Opportunities

  • Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Children rely on afterschool and summer learning programs to feed their minds as well as their bodies.  Several federal child nutrition programs make it possible for children to get the food they need both in school and during out-of-school time.  With these programs up for reauthorization in the 116th Congress, click here for our child nutrition reauthorization priorities for afterschool and summer learning programs.
  • Summer Meals Act: Child nutrition program reauthorization efforts have taken a strong step forward with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Rick Larsen (D-WA) introducing the bipartisan  Summer Meals Act of 2019. Learn more here about how this bipartisan, bicameral bill will help more students get the healthy meals they need during the summer months, and take action in support of the bill. 
  • Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act: Congress reauthorized the federal child nutrition programs in 2010 by passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The bill expanded the At-Risk Afterschool Meal Program to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and made several other necessary changes to the child nutrition programs that greatly benefit children in afterschool programs. Read more about what the Afterschool Alliance's child nutrition reauthorization priorities were.
  • Local Wellness Policies: The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 required all local education agencies participating in a federal child nutrition program to establish a local wellness policy by the 2006-2007 school year.  While the policies have been created, there is still room for afterschool to get involved, and demonstrate that afterschool programs can be key partners in school districts' health-promotion efforts. The Active Hours Afterschool: Local Wellness Policy Toolkit for Afterschool Programs outlines steps that afterschool advocates can take to get involved in the policy process.
  • Support legislation in your state:  Support policies that promote active and healthy lifestyles for youth. Search the Centers for Disease Control's Nutrition and Physical Activity Legislative Database for summaries of new and existing state-level nutrition and physical activity legislation and policies dating back to 2001.
  • Join an Action for Healthy Kids State TeamAction for Healthy Kids (AFHK), a nationwide initiative dedicated to improving the health and educational performance of children through better nutrition and physical activity in schools, has created State Teams that are implementing Action Plans to improve nutrition and physical activity opportunities for youth. 
  • Afterschool Obesity Prevention Agenda: In February 2005, the Afterschool Alliance released its national policy agenda on obesity prevention. The agenda calls for significant investment in afterschool as a way to combat childhood obesity and offers policy suggestions geared toward federal and state policy makers, funders and program leaders.
  • Making the Case: Use facts and data from Afterschool Alliance Research related to Afterschool and Health to demonstrate the role afterschool programs can play in improving health for children.

Program Opportunities:
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers three different nutrition assistance programs that can help afterschool and summer learning providers offer nutritious meals or snacks to participating children:

  • The Summer Food Service Program is a USDA administered program designed to fill the nutrition gap left during the summer months and make sure children can get the nutritious meals they need. Our survey of afterschool and summer program providers shows that these programs are an important source of food for the kids they serve, and takes a look at the important role SFSP plays in bringing healthy snacks and meals to kids in need.
  • At-Risk Afterschool Meal Program - Afterschool programs that participate in the CACFP Afterschool meal (or snack) program give children and teenagers the nutrition they need, and draw them into constructive activities that are safe, fun, and filled with opportunities for learning.
  • The Afterschool Snack Program can be operated by school nutrition departments through the National School Lunch Program. 

Public Funding:

Afterschool Alliance Resources:

The Afterschool Alliance's work in nutrition is supported by the Food Research and Action Center through the ConAgra Foods Foundation as well as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.