This week is National Volunteer Week, a special time to recognize the extraordinary contributions of volunteers across the country.
Afterschool professionals understand the importance of volunteers. These dedicated individuals are key to ensuring all children have access to high quality afterschool programs. Volunteers fulfill a number of different roles, from serving as tutors and mentors to educating students on specific subjects. They also fundraise for these programs and can manage certain aspects of program operations Without volunteers, many afterschool programs would not be able to serve the 8.4 million students they reach.
Community volunteers are not the only people afterschool programs rely upon. Volunteers from the major national service programs, including AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA, also play important roles in many afterschool programs. During their year-long service commitments, AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA members manage volunteers, fundraise, promote program sustainability and work directly with enrolled students. These volunteers are critical to the day-to-day operations of many afterschool programs.
If you are an afterschool program volunteer, thank you for all that you do! If you manager or work for an afterschool program, be sure to take some time this week to thank your volunteers.
In just a few short months, schools across the country will close their doors for summer break. Summer is a fun time for many kids who spend the hot, hazy days at summer camp, on a family vacation or exploring new interests in summer learning programs. For those children that rely on meals served through the federal school nutrition programs, however, summer is a time for hunger.
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is the federal child nutrition program that provides at least one healthy meal at no cost to children who rely on free and reduced price school meals during the academic year. While the SFSP reaches many eligible children, the need is much greater. During summer 2011, only 1 in 7 children who were eligible for free or reduced price school lunches participated in SFSP.
Last week I participated in a special Twitter town hall that focused on increasing not only the number of children participating in SFSP, but also the number of sites that offer the program. There were many great questions asked and ideas shared by participants—including questions on how summer learning programs, schools and food banks can work together to ensure children have access to healthy summer meals.
This past Saturday I had the privilege of leading a great team of Afterschool Alliance staff members at the National Day of Service Fair, held in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall. The fair was one of the signature events held this weekend in celebration of both Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the Presidential Inauguration.
The beautiful, sunny skies brought more than 13,000 people to the event. The Afterschool Alliance was one of 94 organizations participating—and just one of 14 education-focused groups to have a table at the event. Joining us in the education section of the tent were several other national and local afterschool allies and providers, including After-School All-Stars, 826DC, Teens Run DC, First Book, Reading Is Fundamental, Sasha Bruce Youthwork, Martha’s Table and Life Pieces To Masterpieces.
In addition to meeting with various service and community organizations, attendees heard from a number of celebrity speakers who discussed the importance of community service. Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton, actress and afterschool supporter Eva Longoria, musician Ben Folds, gospel singer Yolanda Adams, and Martin Luther King III were among the celebrities and dignitaries addressing the crowds.
There was a lot of great energy in the tent as people visited each of the organizations to learn how they can give back to their communities through service. At least 1,000 people came by the Afterschool Alliance table, where we talked to them about afterschool in America and shared how they can volunteer in their community. I was inspired by the people who stopped by our table to tell us how important afterschool programs are to their children, or in some cases, themselves.
It was a great honor for the Afterschool Alliance to participate in this way during the Inauguration weekend. Education was an important focus of Pres. Obama’s first term. The participation of our organization, and the other allies and program providers listed above, demonstrates how summer learning and before- and afterschool programs play an important role in the education of all children and young people.
Ensuring all kids have access to afterschool meals was the theme of the latest webinar hosted by the Afterschool Alliance. The webinar, “Feeding America’s Children After School,” was held this past Wednesday and featured speakers that discussed how afterschool programs can successfully implement the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program.
The At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program is a federal child nutrition program that was expanded to every state through the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Afterschool programs that are located in or near a school with 50 percent or more of enrolled students participating in the National School Lunch Program are eligible to participate in the program.
As a thank you for the incredible work public school teachers do, the production company behind the documentary Brooklyn Castle is offering free tickets to screenings of the film between Friday, October 26 and Thursday, November 1.
Brooklyn Castle is a film that celebrates the hard work, dedication and tireless generosity of our nation’s public school teachers. Without their support, stories like the amazing after-school chess program at I.S. 318 would not be possible.
- Find a theater showing Brooklyn Castle here: http://www.brooklyncastle.com/see-the-film
- Show a valid Teacher ID or Union Card at the box office to obtain your ticket.
- Offer is good for one free ticket per teacher at all theaters showing Brooklyn Castle (except the University Town Center in Irvine, CA) between Friday, October 26 through Thursday, November 1.
This guest blog was written by Colleen Clark, manager of national program expansion for Share Our Strength.
No child should grow up hungry in America, but 1 in 5 children is at risk for hunger, lacking consistent access to enough food to ensure an active and healthy life. Many of these children rely on federal nutrition programs, like school breakfast, lunch and afterschool programming to obtain nutritious food every day. Through Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, we are surrounding children in this nation with healthy food where they live, learn and play—but we can’t do it without your help.
As an afterschool program and Lights On Afterschool participant, it’s critical to know the importance of including meals in your afterschool programming. This, for many kids, is their only opportunity to access a healthy meal after the school bell rings.
The At-Risk Afterschool Meal Program helps students get the nutritious meals they need in a safe, supervised location and can help afterschool programs attract additional students and supplement their budget. Signed into law in 2010 under the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program enables afterschool programs providing enrichment activities to receive reimbursement for snacks and suppers in areas where at least 50 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Many afterschool programs already provide snacks to students using money from their own budgets, because they recognize that many students are not getting dinner at home. By participating in the At-Risk Afterschool Meal Program, organizations can use that money saved for additional programming, staff or outreach. Additionally, evidence suggests that by providing meals, programs realize an increase in attendance and improvements in student behavior.
As you finalize planning for your Lights On Afterschool event, please consider including a component around afterschool meals and childhood hunger. Here are some suggestions:
- With kids, play the hunger origami game
- Participate in the childhood hunger reflection
- Ask adults and kids to take the No Kid Hungry pledge
- Serve a meal at Lights On-- use this as an opportunity to reflect on the value of meals in afterschool programming
For more information on the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program, please visit The Center for Best Practices. There, you’ll find resources like the top 10 reasons to convert snack programs to meal programs.
Summer, before and afterschool programs are playing a critical role in encouraging students to lead healthy, active lifestyles, but moving more isn’t just about being healthier. Young people who are more active also tend to have greater academic achievement, better classroom behavior and better attendance. With many schools limiting the amount of time students are able to be physically active, many out-of-school time programs are providing the opportunities kids need – and want – to get moving.
Active Living Research, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded program focusing on the prevention of childhood obesity, just released a new document listing numerous resources that detail a variety of school-based strategies to get young people moving. Among the resources is a research brief with suggestions for ways afterschool programs can promote physical activity and prevent obesity among children. Another document shares research on community access to recreational and sport facilities outside of school, and after the bell rings.
The Afterschool Alliance also has a number of issue briefs and resources to help generate new ideas for physical activity and healthy living in your summer learning, before or afterschool program, so be sure to visit our Active Hours Afterschool page for tools to implement creative health and wellness activities!
It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over! During the month of July, I continued my travels around the country, discussing the importance of afterschool programs and focusing my presentations on increasing participation in the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program.