Child Nutrition

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

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 as well as information on out-of-school time priorities for child nutrition reauthorization.

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 last reauthorized in 2010, Congress is overdue for a comprehensive child nutrition reauthorization. Click here for our child nutrition reauthorization priorities for afterschool and summer learning programs.
  • Summer Meal Provisions in FY 2023 Omnibus Bill: The FY 2023 omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in December 2022 includes several policy changes added by the Senate Agriculture Committee that will impact the Summer Nutrition Programs. The bill does not include a comprehensive reauthorization of the federal child nutrition programs, but does include the following: (1) Makes permanent the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) programs that had previously been piloted. This will go into effect in summer 2024 and allows qualifying low-income families with children to receive funds to pay for meals for children. Summer EBT is a complement to the Summer Nutrition Programs (which support summer meal programs in low-income communities that are frequently combined with educational, enrichment, and recreational activities) and can help reduce food insecurity for low-income families, particularly in rural or other areas with limited access to summer meals. (2) Allows communities in rural areas that do not have existing summer learning programs that offer meals through the Summer Nutrition Programs to implement non-congregate feeding programs that provide meals directly to children’s homes. USDA would develop rules and regulations for this new provision.
  • 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 Rick Larsen (D-WA) introducing the bipartisan  Summer Meals Act in previous sessions of Congress. 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. 
  • Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022: In summer of 2022, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued a news release announcing several new child nutrition program nationwide waivers and flexibilities under authority provided by the recently passed  Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022 to support child nutrition program operations in Summer 2022 and School Year 2022-2023. The waivers and flexibilities are a response to the significant challenges child nutrition program operators including community based organizations, school, and nonprofit afterschool and summer learning providers continue to face, including supply chain and staffing disruptions.
  • White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health: On September 28, 2022, for only the second time in the history of the country, the president convened a White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The event was held in person as well as streamed to an audience of thousands as attendees contributed ideas and renewed the nation’s commitment to improving food and nutrition security for all Americans. Learn how afterschool and summer programs played a role.
  • 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.
  • 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: