You've probably noticed—it's an election year! And, it’s a big election year at that! Not only is the presidency up for grabs, but all 435 House of Representative seats and 34 of 100 Senate seats will be decided this November, and that’s just at the national level! For advocates of afterschool and summer programming, now is a great time to get our future decision makers thinking about important issues.
We know that afterschool and summer programs help keep youth safe and engaged, support working families, prepare the future workforce, and improve student well-being. Now, we need to make sure our candidates also understand the value of afterschool programs and, once they become elected officials, the importance of supporting afterschool. We’ve prepared the following resources to help you turn afterschool into an election issue this year.
- The Campaign for Afterschool Toolkit: A comprehensive guide to afterschool advocacy during an election year, including how to mobilize support, sample talking points and outreach materials, social media support, the do’s and don’ts for non-profit organizations, links to helpful resources, and more.
- The Candidate Resource Guide on Afterschool: This guide is designed to be given to any candidate for office, and is filled with information they need to see afterschool as an essential piece of their platform that provides solid returns on investment. The guide is separated into 6 main sections showcasing research and polling data on ways afterschool complements and strengthens work being done to support working families, build safe communities, advance academic achievement, promote STEM learning and career readiness, encourage health and wellness, and close opportunity gaps. Please read and distribute broadly. Remember to provide a copy to all candidates for particular office. Afterschool, after all, receives frequent and broad bi-partisan support.
Other resources to check out:
- Afterschool Alliance Elections Webinars: Upcoming webinar on the materials above and outreach efforts across states
- Non-Profit Vote: A great resource for how non-profits can support voter registration
- Every Child Matters: An organization with the main goal of making children’s issues a national political priority
|USDA photo by Lance Cheung|
On April 22nd, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon announced strengthened nutrition standards for food and beverages served to children in afterschool programs and day care settings at the annual conference of the National Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Sponsors Association.
School age children in participating afterschool programs, as well as young children in child care settings and adults in senior care, will now receive meals with more whole grains, a greater variety of vegetables and fruits, and less added sugars and solid fats. The science-based standards introduced in this final rule will elevate the nutritional quality of meals and snacks provided under the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP) to better align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and to be consistent with the meals children receive as part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). The At-Risk Afterschool Meals program, which provides meals to more than one million children each afternoon, falls under the CACFP guidelines.
In addition to afterschool programs, CACFP provides aid to child and adult care institutions and family or group day care homes for the provision of nutritious foods that contribute to the growth and development of children and the health and wellness of older adults and chronically impaired disabled persons. Through the CACFP, over 4 million children and nearly 120,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks each day as part of the care they receive.
This is the first major revision of the CACFP meal patterns since the program's inception in 1968, and will require meals and snacks provided through the CACFP to better reflect the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the nutritional issues facing young children and adults today. These changes are a meaningful first step in improving CACFP participants’ access to nutritious foods. The updated meal patterns also better align with the National Afterschool Association Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards, which foster health and well-being practices in afterschool programs nationwide through science-based standards for healthy eating, physical activity and screen time.
The new standards were carefully designed to make significant, achievable and cost-neutral improvements to the nutritional quality of the meals and snacks served through CACFP. USDA focused on incremental changes that balance the science behind the nutritional needs of the diverse CACFP participants and the practical abilities of participating afterschool program providers, child care centers and day care homes to implement these changes. By setting an implementation date of October 1, 2017, the final rule provides ample lead time for centers and day care homes to learn and understand the new meal pattern standards before they are required to be in full compliance.
USDA will provide in-person and online trainings and is developing new resources and training materials, such as menu planning tools, new and updated recipes, and tip sheets, to ensure successful implementation of the new nutrition standards. Additionally, the Afterschool Alliance plans to hold webinars for afterschool program providers participating in the CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals program who will be impacted by the new meal pattern requirements.
Additionally, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) will host a webinar "New Healthier CACFP Meal Standards: What you need to know" on May 9, 2016 at 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM EDT. Click here to register.
By Luci Manning
Students at Frances Willard Elementary School, Rock Island will get to enjoy squash, corn, green beans, strawberries and rhubarb this fall thanks to the work of 16 kids in the school’s afterschool program. The garden project is run by three local AmeriCorps workers as part of a collection of educational programs they provide to the community through the Nahant Marsh environmental education center. “The project usually involves the kids getting more connected to the outdoors and fostering stewardship of our natural world,” AmeriCorps worker Grace Griffin told the Quad-City Times. The students will tend the garden throughout the summer then harvest the produce this fall.
High school sophomores Mandy Lee, Joan Monti and Xiu Ti Wang first began to identify themselves as scientists when they collected DNA from strawberries, visited the American Museum of Natural History and examined rocks as part of Girl Scout Troop 3106. Their Scout leader Maryann Stimmer sees the Girl Scouts and other afterschool programs as the key to unlocking the scientific potential of girls. Rather than focusing on student performance like regular-day teachers, afterschool staff can focus on identity, which is a bigger predictor of whether students will go into science and math fields, according to Stimmer. “After school is the sweet spot for STEM,” she told Youth Today.
Earlier this week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee joined a group of students from Northern Heights Elementary School as they explored the forest near their school, catching garter snakes and playing hide and seek behind trees and bushes. The outing, part of Wild Whatcom’s afterschool program, followed Inslee’s announcement that the nonprofit will receive a $20,000 No Child Left Inside grant from the state’s Parks and Recreation Commission to expand its outdoor education programs. “The evidence shows—and there is good evidence of this—that small, little experiences like this really turns kids on to science, turns them on to nature, turns them on to what’s wild in our state,” Gov. Inslee told the Bellingham Herald.
The Adams Youth Center Inc.’s afterschool program did its share to help the environment this Earth Day by making 40 reusable bags through The BagShare Project, which produces eco-friendly bags made from recycled materials to encourage people to use fewer plastic bags. Volunteers at the Council of Aging also participated in the project, and together the two groups made over 100 reusable bags. “The bags are made by 6-year-olds, teens, tweens and elders, demonstrating that greening up/reusing is everyone’s responsibility,” The BagShare Project founder Leni Fried told the Berkshire Eagle. The bags were delivered with monthly food supplies for people in need across the area in honor of Earth Day.
On April 20th, Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN), chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education introduced a House child nutrition reauthorization bill on behalf of the majority on the House Education and Workforce Committee. The bill would reauthorize the federal child nutrition programs including the Child and Adult Food Care Food Program (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Meals program and the Summer Food Service Program; however, many of the proposed changes could result in children no longer being able to access the nutritious meals they need to learn and be healthy.
Among the general provisions in the bill of major concern:
- Significantly weakening the community eligibility provision (CEP). Community eligibility is a federal option in its second year of nationwide implementation that reduces administrative work and increases school lunch and breakfast access in high-poverty schools. The bill proposes to substantially reduce the number of high-poverty schools that are eligible to implement community eligibility, which would impact approximately 7,000 of the 18,000 schools currently participating in the program. 11,000 additional schools not currently participating would lose the option to implement community eligibility in future years.
- Increasing verification requirements. The bill dramatically increases school meal application verification requirements in ways that inevitably would cause eligible students to lose access to free or reduced-price school meals. Under the proposal, the number of household applications to be verified would increase significantly for many school districts, creating paperwork burdens for schools and families. A disproportionate number of vulnerable families, such as those who are homeless, migrant, immigrant or have limited English proficiency, would fall through the cracks in the process and lose access to school meals even though they are eligible.
- Failing to address shortfalls in the summer food program (especially from an out-of-school time perspective). The streamlining provision in the bill does not allow nonprofit organizations and local government agencies (that are not schools) to operate the Summer Food Service Program year-round. Instead, sponsors receive the lower CACFP reimbursement rate and fewer sites are eligible in order to qualify for streamlining. Rather than making it easier for providers to offer meals seamlessly throughout the calendar year, the proposed provision would result in fewer programs offering meals to children in need due to the limited eligibility and lower reimbursement rate.
In contrast, the Senate child nutrition reauthorization bill that passed the Senate Agriculture Committee earlier this year would instead streamline summer and afterschool meal coordination in a manner that would allow afterschool meal sites to choose to operate year-round through the Summer Food Service Program. This will allow sponsors to keep an adequate reimbursement rate, maintain eligibility, operate one program rather than two, and significantly reduce duplicative paperwork and confusing administrative rules protecting the new school meal nutrition standards that are improving our children’s health and the school nutrition environment. The Afterschool Alliance has strongly recommended such a provision.
The House bill could be marked up by the House Education and the Workforce Committee in the coming weeks. You can voice your opinion on the bill to your representative via our action center.
By Robert Abare
The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present this Afterschool Spotlight, part of a series featuring the stories of children, parents and providers of summer and afterschool programs. Have a story to share? Email Robert Abare at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For 12 years, Dr. A. Michael Shaw earned praise for his work as an educator and mentor in his hometown of New Orleans, even earning the honor of Teacher of the Year. After Hurricane Katrina’s devastating arrival in 2005, however, he made the difficult decision to make a new start in St. Louis. But while some things change, other stay the same—his commitment to helping disadvantaged youth remained strong.
“I realized that young people need help everywhere,” said Dr. Shaw. “They all face the same challenges, and they all need the confidence to believe in themselves.”
Dr. Shaw, who is currently Dean of Students at Jennings Junior High School in St. Louis, brought with him from New Orleans the concept for an afterschool program to show kids the world of possibilities one can achieve through education, hard work and self-confidence. The Lifting Our Valuable Esteem (LOVE) Club currently works toward this goal as a part of the Jennings School District’s “Stars and Heroes” afterschool program, which is funded by a grant from 21st Century Community Learning Centers. The Stars and Heroes program also offers a number of other opportunities for students after school, from golf to robotics.
The LOVE Club focuses on encouraging kids to think beyond their current circumstances and reach for new possibilities by introducing them to professional adults from various walks of life. Visitors to the LOVE Club have included attorneys, doctors, policemen, business leaders and restaurant owners, all of whom engaged in lively Q&A sessions with the participants.
“The speakers share with the kids what they do, what it takes to do what they do, and what students should focus on in school in order to get a job like theirs one day,” Dr. Shaw explained.
This September marks the 15th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11. We are proud to join 9/11 Day and a coalition of more than 20 other organizations to encourage service, empathy and unity through a new initiative called Tomorrow Together. Tomorrow Together will include large-scale service projects across the nation on September 11, 2016, bringing together a diverse community of people to help address hunger in America and other important societal issues:
- In Washington, D.C., volunteers will help pack more than one million meals for at-risk seniors, children, veterans and others.
- Millions of educators will receive free educational service-learning materials that assist in teaching empathy, through a collaboration with the Ashoka's Start Empathy Initiative and the National Youth Leadership Council.
- At the college level, The George Washington University will help organize other universities and colleges to participate in 9/11 Day.
9/11 Day is also releasing public service announcements (PSAs) featuring 14-year-old Hillary O'Neill from Norwalk, CT, one of more than 13,000 children born in the United States on the day of the tragedy, September 11, 2001. In the PSAs, O'Neill urges the nation to see the anniversary of 9/11 as a day to work together to do good deeds. View her message on YouTube.
9/11 Day co-founder and executive vice president Jay Winuk perfectly summed up the goal of the effort. Winuk's brother, Glenn J. Winuk, an attorney and volunteer firefighter and EMT, died in the line of duty as a rescuer on 9/11. Jay said, "As someone who lost a loved one on 9/11, I was truly inspired by the remarkable way our nation came together in the months following the attacks. We owe more than division and discord to those who perished from the attacks and those who served in its aftermath. The anniversary of 9/11 should be a reminder to us all about our common humanity and the opportunity we have to help people and communities in need."
What can afterschool programs do for 9/11 Day?
Plan your own service activity, or reach out to service organizations in your community. And stay tuned, the Afterschool Snack will share resources and activities as they are developed.
9/11 is an annually recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance. More than 30 million Americans now observe September 11 each year through charitable service and good deeds, transforming 9/11 Day into the largest annual day of charitable engagement in America.
Once school is out this year, will you be working with a summer learning program to continue providing engaging learning to young people? Don’t forget to provide nutritious meals to children through your program! With the USDA Summer Meals Program you can help young people get free, healthy meals this summer.
How does the program work?
Purpose: To serve free, healthy meals to low-income children and teens during summer months when school is out.
Where: Any safe place for kids (for example: school, park, rec center, library, faith organization, etc.) can be a summer meal site, but summer learning programs are an ideal location to offer learning and meals!
Who: Summer meal sites receive meals from local sponsoring organizations (for example: Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, local school district, etc.). Sponsors prepare the food (or order it), deliver it to the meal site, and are reimbursed by USDA for the costs.
Eligibility: Any meal site open to the public is eligible if it is in a school attendance area where 50 percent or more children qualify for free and reduced-priced school meals. If it is not open to the public (for example: a summer camp), 50 percent of more of the enrolled students must qualify for free and reduced-priced school meals.
By Luci Manning
Rock Falls Middle School students are coming out of their shells thanks to an afterschool theater program run by the school, Sterling-Rock Falls YMCA and the Woodlawn Arts Academy. The afterschool students recently put on a performance of “The Wizard of Oz,” which impressed the Illinois State Board of Education enough that they have been asked to perform it again at the 21st Century Community Learning Centers spring conference in May. The program includes an academic tutoring element, but focuses on the arts as a way to unlock kids’ potential. “Arts is fantastic, because you get to watch it change their lives and watch them get more confidence in themselves,” program head Faith Morrison told Sauk Valley Newspapers.
Benton Harbor’s 21st Century Community Learning Center program is receiving high marks across the board from parents, teachers and students. The afterschool program uses creative activities—like sending Barbie dolls bungee-jumping using rubber bands—to teach science, arts, math and other academic skills. According to project director Julie Earle, the kids can’t get enough—93 percent of students in the program said they wanted to attend in a recent survey. “The students are choosing to learn,” she told the Herald-Palladium. “To me, that’s the biggest reason we’re successful.” Additionally, 100 percent of parents say the program has helped their kids academically and kept them out of trouble.
A group of elementary school students gathered at the Hyannis Gold Course last week to learn basic putting and other important golf skills as part of the First Tee Massachusetts afterschool program. Through the nine-week program, kids will learn to drive, chip, select the appropriate clubs and how to play by the rules of the game. All the while, they’ll absorb life skills that fit into the program’s nine core values: respect, courtesy, honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, confidence, responsibility, perseverance and judgment. The kids will learn to push through their mistakes, respect their competition and honestly report their own scores. “It is really a life skills program,” Hyannis’ PGA teaching professional Dave Donnellan told the Bourne Courier. “Golf is the vehicle by which we teach those life skills.”
Thirteen Vance Middle School students are learning how the scientific concepts of force, friction, acceleration, velocity and speed apply to drag racing through the CHAMPS Racing Program. The afterschool program teaches kids how to use their math and science knowledge to solve real-life problems by working on their teacher David Boggs’ racecar, which he drives on the weekend at Bristol Dragway. “We take the race program and help kids use what they learn in the classroom and use it at the track,” he told WJHL.