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Snacks by Erik Peterson
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
7
2016

POLICY
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Cut to afterschool proposed in Senate LHHS Subcommittee education spending bill

By Erik Peterson

The FY2017 appropriations process started once again this week with the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee marking up and passing by a voice vote their FY2017 education spending bill today. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the bill this Thursday, with the House Committee likely to tackle their own version of the bill later this month. The bill sets funding levels for all federal education, human service, health and labor programs—including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, which provides federal funds leveraged by local school-community partnerships to provide quality afterschool and summer learning programs.

While bipartisan (the first time a bipartisan bill has been passed out of the Subcommittee in 7 years, to be exact) the Senate LHHS FY2017 spending bill includes cuts to education and other programs that provide necessary supports to children and working families due to a spending allocation that was $270 million less than FY2016 and tremendous competing pressures for funding. It also must be noted that no “poison pill” policy riders were included in the bill, thus further ensuring bipartisan passage of the measure.

Proposal cuts afterschool by $117 million

With regard to key federal efforts that support afterschool and summer learning programs, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative was funded at $1,050,000,000—a cut of $117 million below the current FY2016 level of $1.166 billion. The proposed level is slightly above the level authorized in last year’s ESSA bill, however it represents about a 10 percent cut from the current funding level. If the Senate bill were to become law, approximately 117,000 children would lose access to quality afterschool and summer learning programs next year.

The Senate LHHS bill provides $161.9 billion in base discretionary spending, which is $270 million below the FY2016 level and $2 billion below the President’s budget request. The bill funds the U.S. Department of Education at $67.8 billion, a $220 million decrease below the comparable FY2016 level. In addition to 21st CCLC, funding levels for a number of other programs that support afterschool include:

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.

APR
4
2016

CHALLENGE
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Will you accept the Afterschool for All Challenge?

By Erik Peterson

Senator Barbara Boxer of California greets participants of last year's Afterschool for All Challenge.

On May 24, 2016, hundreds of afterschool advocates and youth will be bringing their powerful stories to Capitol Hill for the 16th annual Afterschool for All Challenge. We know it is difficult to travel to Washington, D.C. to make your voice heard, so we are bringing the advocacy opportunity to you with the Afterschool for All Virtual Challenge, in which you can participate from your own community or computer!

Join us for the Afterschool for All Challenge: Take Action At Home webinar on Tuesday, April 12 at 1 p.m. ET to learn more about how you can participate and make your voice heard. The webinar will feature soon-to-be-released advocacy tools that will help you make the case for afterschool.

Congress needs to hear from you. 

You are the local experts on afterschool, so we're asking you to call, meet and email Congress on Afterschool for All Challenge day: May 24, 2016. Here in Washington, we'll be backing up your outreach at home through face-to-face meetings with key Members of Congress.

On May 24, take the Afterschool for All Virtual Challenge at home—our upcoming Take Action Toolkit will have all the resources you'll need! Here are three easy ways to participate:

  1. Meet with your Congressional district offices or set up a site visit at your program.
  2. Call, tweet or email Congress and ask them to support funding for the afterschool programs working families rely on.
  3. Encourage your contacts to take action.

To help you get started, join us on April 12th for a webinar to walk you through how to successfully reach out to your Members of Congress with key messages during the virtual Afterschool for All ChallengeRegister now!

MAR
25
2016

POLICY
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Members of Congress and national organizations pledge support for boosted afterschool funding

By Erik Peterson

While the House of Representatives is now in recess until April 12, the appropriations process continues as appropriations subcommittee staff start working on drafting spending bills. A challenge for appropriators will be meeting the needs of children and families given the constraints of lower spending levels and the pressure of potentially more spending cuts as a result of a pending House Budget Resolution for FY2017. Funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative is at risk following the president’s proposed $167 million cut to the program announced last month.

House and Senate appropriations committees have begun holding hearings on the FY2017 spending bills, including a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) hearing on March 22, featuring testimony by Education Secretary John King. Representatives Cicilline (D-RI) and Barletta (R-PA) are circulating a “dear colleague letter” calling on appropriators to fund 21st CCLC at $1.3 billion for FY2017.

In the Senate, a full quarter of sitting Senators signed a similar "dear colleague letter” organized by Senator Boxer (D-CA) and addressed to Senate Appropriators to fund 21st CCLC at that same increased level. 21st Century Community Learning Centers play a vital role in communities across the nation in providing out-of-school time services to students and families through unique collaborations between schools and community based organizations, which provide a balance of academic and social and emotional interventions to students in need.

A wide array of national, state and local organizations also expressed support for funding 21st CCLC this week by uniting to send a letter to House and Senate appropriators in support of $1.3 billion for 21st CCLC. Signees to the letter include Americans for the Arts, the American Library Association, the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, After-School All-Stars, the Association of Children’s Museums, the Association of Science-Technology Centers, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Camp Fire, Girl Scouts of the USA, Lutheran Services in America, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Council of Youth Sport, the National Farm to School Network, Save the Children, United Way Worldwide, YMCA of the USA and dozens more.

Make your voice heard, too—take action now.

Individual afterschool advocates are also weighing in on the need for additional federal funding for afterschool programs, having sent more than 210 emails to Members of Congress this month. There is still time to take action and make your voice heard: contact Congress via email, Facebook or Twitter to express support for federal afterschool funding as part of the FY2017 appropriations process.