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AUG
3
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: August 3, 2016

By Luci Manning

Teens Get Hooked on Surfing, Environment (Marin Independent Journal, California)

Two Marin high schoolers are building a love for the environment in younger students through a surfing summer camp. The free program targets underprivileged preteens who may not know much about environmental stewardship. Students receive more than just surfing lessons at the camp—they also learn about warming ocean temperatures and ocean life. Scott Tye, chairman of the Marin chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, told the Marin Independent Journal, “The goal is to preserve and maintain our beaches and teach about it in a positive way.” The program operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation.

Summer Programs Close the Gap (Rutland Herald, Vermont)

Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe makes the case for summer learning programs in the Rutland Herald: “Summer doesn’t always promise the same opportunities for all of Vermont’s students, especially those students who live in poverty…. It doesn’t have to be this way. We know that access to good nutrition, health care, responsive adults and safe and supportive environments can help even the most challenged child thrive and learn. If we don’t provide these conditions, we are essentially manufacturing inequity at the level of the brain…. High-quality summer learning programs and strong after-school programs, coupled with food programs, will go a long way towards narrowing our opportunity and achievement gaps.”

The Boston Summer School Students Reach by Ferry – Not Bus (Christian Science Monitor)

Boston Afterschool and Beyond partnered with Outward Bound, Boston Public Schools and the National Parks Service to put together a top-notch, free summer learning program for low-income students in Boston. The program, hosted on Thompson Island, uses the surrounding natural environment to engage some 70 students in hands-on science lessons. Instructors try to take a holistic approach to their teaching, giving students the skills to reason and analyze and apply the lessons to their everyday lives, rather than just drill them with facts from a book. “If a student isn’t excelling in one kind of environment September through June, why would go and stick them back in that same environment for the whole summer?” Boston Afterschool and Beyond summer learning program director David McAuley told the Christian Science Monitor.

The Young Hustlers Prove Anyone Can Be an Entrepreneur (San Francisco Chronicle, California)

Statistics show that 87 percent of venture capital-backed startup founders are white—but this doesn’t faze the Young Hustlers, a group of minority preteens who started their own business making music and selling branded clothing. The business grew out of the 15 Seeds afterschool program, which provides underprivileged students a space to explore what they’re passionate about. The program gives youngsters, most of whom live in public housing, a chance to make money without resorting to gangs, drugs or violence. “When people hear where you live, where you’re from, they think they know you,” group hip-hop artist Dominique told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But they don’t know…. We’re making a difference. We’re entrepreneurs.” 

JUL
20
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: July 20, 2016

By Luci Manning

City Councilors Serve Up Free Meals for Students during Summer Break (Tulsa World, Oklahoma)

Employees at the Cornerstone Community Center got help providing summer meals to students last week from two Tulsa city councilors. The center’s Summer Café program offers breakfast and lunch weekdays throughout the summer to ensure students are getting healthy, filling meals when school is out. “The program itself (Summer Café) is hugely important,” Councilor Anna America told Tulsa World. “We’ve got thousands and thousands of kids who don’t have basic needs met. For many of these kids, during the school year they’ll get breakfast and lunch from the school. Over the summer, it’s a huge problem.”

Boom Comics Gives out Free Comics, Lunch to Support National Summer Learning Day, Other Initiatives (Topeka Capital-Journal, Kansas)

Various Topeka community organizations last week came together to put on a special “Meet and Eat” event to celebrate Summer Learning Day and promote literacy and healthy eating habits for students. The event was held at Boom Comics, which handed out free comics to participating children. Harvesters and the Kansas Department of Education’s summer food service program collaborated to provide a free meal for students while other groups gave out free books and put together games. “It’s not just a positive for the communities that are involved here – the small business owner, the nonprofits – but the kids win. And that’s what we’re about,” Harvesters government programs manager Angela Jeppesen told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “We want these kids to win. We want them to be positively supported by the community.”

The Rec Still Welcoming Youth after 75 Years (Dayton Daily News, Ohio)

Teens have been using the Troy Recreation Hall (better known as the Rec) to play basketball, work on homework and catch up with their friends for 75 years. “The Rec has survived over the years because it has had tremendous community support as well as its ability to meet the ever changing needs of the youth of Troy,” Rec board president Andrew Wannemacher told Dayton Daily News. The Rec offers free afterschool activities for middle school and high school students, including basketball, dodgeball, billiards, ping-pong and video games, and also provides computers and a homework room for students to get some extra work done.

STEM Classes Sprout in Summer (New York Daily News, New York)

A new program launching in New York City will give 4,000 students from underserved areas the opportunity to explore STEM fields this summer. Last week, City School Chancellor Carmen Fariña unveiled the STEM Summer in the City classes, which will teach topics like computer coding, video game design and robotics to students in grades two through ten. According to the Daily News, Fariña sees STEM and summer learning as “critical pieces of putting our students on the path to college and careers,” especially for at-risk children who may not otherwise have such opportunities. 

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learn more about: Nutrition Science Summer Learning
JUN
28
2016

POLICY
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Gains in Summer Meals, but work remains

By Erik Peterson

With summer 2016 in full swing, summer learning programs are again gearing up, and more than just minds will be filled before school starts up again in the fall. Once again, millions of children will receive meals through the US Department of Agriculture’s Summer Meals program: ensuring that kids are nourished and healthy while they explore, learn and grow this summer.

Earlier this month, the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) released its latest Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation report, finding that summer nutrition programs nationally saw a modest increase of 11,000 participants from July 2014 to 2015. These numbers come after three years of significant program growth. According to the report, on an average day in July 2015, summer nutrition programs served lunch to nearly 3.2 million children across the country, equaling 15.8 low-income children participating for every 100 that receive a free or reduced-price lunch. The report again points to the challenges that summer learning programs face in operating the Summer Meals program and the barriers to participation for many families. 

One way to improve these numbers, according to the FRAC report, is through Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation currently being debated by Congress. The Afterschool Alliance supports a key proposal that can be included in the legislation, streamlining meal programs by allowing sponsors to provide food year-round, rather than in two separate programs during the school year and summer.

Summer learning providers are also a key player in boosting participation in the program. Currently it is too early to see how the numbers will translate to Summer 2016, but this is the time to build momentum. To find smart strategies for closing the hunger gap and increasing participation in summer meal programs, check out the USDA’s wide range of new and updated materials to make summer learning and summer meals better than ever in 2016.

JUN
8
2016

POLICY
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Speaker Ryan outlines "A Better Way" to tackle poverty

By Jillian Luchner

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Yesterday, June 7th, House Speaker Paul Ryan presented A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America, a new policy paper on poverty representing the recommendations on issues in welfare, workforce and education by the House Republican Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility.

webpage outlining the plan breaks the message on poverty alleviation into 5 main ideas:

  • Reward Work
  • Tailor Benefits to People’s Needs
  • Improve Skills and Schools
  • Plan and Save for the Future
  • Demand Results

The overarching philosophy of "A Better Way"

The plan emphasizes streamlining programs, noting that “today, 13 federal agencies run more than 80 programs that provide food, housing, health care, job training, education, energy assistance and cash to low-income Americans.” The plan asks for focus to be shifted to the individual rather than compartmentalized among bureaucratic offices, such that the foundation of aid becomes an individual’s goals, and the measure of success becomes an individual’s rise from poverty.

The plan suggests that, with the individual at the center, states, localities and communities become best positioned to determine, direct and coordinate supports for recipients of government services. In streamlining, government must pay attention to redundancies, waste, fraud and abuse, and coordinating data and services while maintaining individual privacy. Resources should be dedicated to evidence-based programs with histories of getting results.

No detailed funding plan is outlined; however, recommendations include support for funding measures such as increased use of vouchers for schooling and housing, social-impact financing, which encourages private investments toward solving public concerns and then reimbursing those investors who achieve successful outcomes for their expenses, plus a return. The plan also recommends tiered financing, which funds a preliminary testing of ideas, followed by a rigorous testing before scaling up what works, and increasing private access to credit through reducing regulations on community banks and credit unions.

MAY
26
2016

POLICY
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Child nutrition bill clears House Education Committee, yet raises major concerns

By Erik Peterson

On May 18, 2016, the House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), approved H.R. 5003, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016. Introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), the legislation reauthorizes and reforms federal child nutrition programs. The bill passed the committee by a partisan vote of 20 to 14. 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 to afterschool and child nutrition advocates:

  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • Block granting school meals. The legislation also includes a three state school meal block grant demonstration pilot to replace the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Special Milk, and Team Nutrition programs. The funding would be capped and cannot exceed the amount a state received for the programs and administrative funding in fiscal year 2016. The funding for school breakfast and lunch is limited to the free and reduced-price reimbursements (eliminating about 29 cents per meal provided for other children) and takes away the additional six cents per lunch provided to schools in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 for meeting the new federal nutrition standards. The states would have broad discretion to: determine which children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and how they are determined eligible; decide the time of year that meals are provided; and abandon the current nutrition standards (meals are only required to be “healthy”).
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learn more about: Advocacy Budget Congress Nutrition
APR
28
2016

POLICY
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New nutrition standards for afterschool programs released

By Erik Peterson

 
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.

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APR
27
2016

POLICY
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Child nutrition reauthorization bill introduced in the House

By Erik Peterson

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

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learn more about: Congress Health and Wellness Nutrition
APR
21
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Summertime means nutritious meals, learning and fun

By Erik Peterson

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.