These resources will help you implement best practices to ensure that kids have access to important nutrition programs in their community.

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Implement Effective Policies and Best Practices
young girl taking her breakfast from a kiosk in the hallway as she heads to class

As an elected official, you have the power to transform an issue into a movement. You can use your bully pulpit to raise awareness about childhood hunger and proven solutions and can institute policies that bring about lasting changes to increase access to child nutrition programs.

You have a critical role to play in ending childhood hunger.  Governors across the country have made ending childhood hunger a priority for their administrations, setting public goals for program expansion, convening task forces or working groups and implementing strategies to ensure that kids have access to the nutritious food they need to thrive. Legislators are sponsoring legislation that will improve nutrition program efficiency and increase their effectiveness in reaching hungry kids. Mayors are working closely with school districts, agencies and organizations to ensure that strong programs exist throughout their communities even when school is out.  Use the resources below to understand the steps that governors, mayors and legislators can take to address child hunger.

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Increase Access to School Breakfast
two 5th grade boys holding their bags breakfasts in their school hallway

The School Breakfast Program ensures that kids get the nutrition they need to learn and succeed in school.  A student who eats school breakfast is more likely to do better on standardized tests, attend class more frequently and have fewer behavioral issues, which leads to greater job-readiness and self-sufficiency after high school. The most effective way for students to get a healthy breakfast is to make it part of the school day through models such as Breakfast in the Classroom or Grab and Go.

Set a public goal for increasing participation in the School Breakfast Program and report on progress

Setting a goal for increasing participation in the School Breakfast Program will elevate the importance of the program and help to focus expansion efforts. Governors can also send letters to superintendents emphasizing the connection between breakfast and academic success and urging them to implement effective Breakfast After the Bell programs. State education agencies can include school breakfast participation rates in their school profiles or report cards.  

Pass legislation requiring breakfast be served after the bell at no cost in high-need schools

The most effective legislation for increasing participation in the School Breakfast Program requires that breakfast be served after the official start of the school day in high-need schools. Other promising legislative options are to eliminate the reduced-price category or allocate funding for grants or a per meal reimbursement for schools implementing breakfast after the bell. An increasing number of states are pursuing school breakfast legislation. 

Use the sample school breakfast legislation as a starting point to craft legislation for your state. Read about other policies passed in states that can have a big impact on school breakfast participation in the Breakfast After the Bell Policy Solutions brochure and visit the School Breakfast Policy and Advocacy Page.

Ensure that all eligible schools adopt the Community Eligibility Provision

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows high-need schools to serve free school meals to all students without the need to collect paper application. CEP is good for schools and families.  It reduces paper work and eliminates the need to collect money or worry about unpaid meal debt.  It also increases access to meals for students who cannot always afford a co-pay and reduces the stigma often associated with participating in programs.  To ensure that eligible schools participate, you can conduct targeted outreach, such as sending a letter to superintendents or principals.

Launch a school breakfast challenge

A school breakfast challenge is a statewide contest to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program. Schools that make the greatest gains in participation within a set timeframe are recognized for their efforts and rewarded with prizes. School breakfast challenges incentivize schools to improve access to school breakfast, generate media about the importance of the program and surface champions who can promote school breakfast expansion to peers in other schools across the state. You can help to launch a school breakfast challenge by promoting the event to schools and can help to celebrate successful schools at the end of a challenge. The School Breakfast Challenge guide provides information and recommendations on starting an effective challenge.

Clarify that school breakfast can count towards instructional time

Lost instructional time is one of the most common misconceptions about serving breakfast after the bell. Teachers report that breakfast served in the classroom does not take away from instructional time since breakfast usually takes place during morning announcements, attendance and worksheets. In fact, teachers often report gains in instructional time due to fewer nurse visits, decreased tardiness and absenteeism and kids showing up focused and ready to learn. Several state superintendents of education have issued memos which clarify that breakfast in the classroom can count as instructional time. Use this sample memo to work with your state agency to help schools eliminate one more barrier to increasing access to school breakfast.

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Help Kids Thrive in the Summertime with a Healthy Meal
young boy looking playfully into the camera while enjoying his summer meal

For students that rely on the healthy meals served during the school day, summertime can be difficult. In a survey of low-income parents, most reported that they spent more money on food during the summer—an average of $316 more per month—and a third reported that they did not always have enough food. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) are federal programs that help children get the food they need when school is not in session. These programs however are severely underutilized; only a fraction of low-income kids who rely on school meals receive meals during the summer. The strategies and tools in this section will help you to elevate the issue of summer hunger in your community.

Raise awareness about summer meals programs

No Kid Hungry research shows that only 40 percent of low-income families know about a summer meals programs in their community. You can help promote the programs to families in their community by attending kick-off events at the start of summer, visiting sites throughout the summer and recognizing success at the end of the summer. A visit to a local summer meals site helps to reinforce the importance of these programs and to draw attention to where families can find sites in their neighborhoods. Work with local community partners and use the Summer Meals Site Visit Toolkit to help arrange a visit to a summer site.

You can also help to spread the word about national summer meals texting and hotline numbers through social media, robo calls to parents, on their websites and on state government websites and by canvassing local neighborhoods. You can record your own public service announcement or use this video to promote programs.  Explore the Sodexo Foundation Summer Meals Outreach Toolkit for more ideas on how you can promote the summer meals programs to families in your community.

Work with your community to establish summer sites

The success of the summer meals programs is dependent on a strong network of accessible sites. You can help to ensure that there are no underserved areas in their cities, districts and states by working with schools, libraries, faith and community leaders and local officials to identify new sites and resources to fill gaps in service.  Mayors’ offices can provide additional support to fill gaps by sponsoring sites in underserved areas.  Reach out to your state agencies to get a list of summer meals program sponsors and areas underserved by the summer meals programs.

Support a collaborative plan for summer meals expansion

Convening key public and private stakeholders to create a comprehensive plan for tackling summer hunger can help to increase participation in the summer meals program.  These partners can help you identify opportunities to expand service, collectively address challenges and align resources to maximize participation in summer meals programs.  Elected officials are in a prime position to take the lead in convening stakeholders or working with their state agencies to do so. Use the No Kid Hungry Summer Collaborative Planning Toolkit to help you convene stakeholders in support of a plan for summer meals in your community.

Sponsor legislation to encourage expansion of the summer meals programs

You can help expand summer meals programs in your state and community by sponsoring legislation to allocate funding to support new sites and programming, require participation in high-need areas or make changes to enhance administrative efficiencies. A handful of states have passed legislation requiring school districts in high-need areas to participate in the summer meals programs or allocated state funding to support programs activities. For more examples of state legislative actions, visit the Summer Meals Advocacy and Policy page.

Elected officials can also support requests to the USDA to waive cumbersome regulatory requirements, such as congregate feeding requirements on excessive heat days, the frequency of site monitoring or use of funds across child nutrition programs.

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Ensure Kids Get a Meal at the End of the School Day
young boy sitting at his desk eating an apple and working on homework

In a survey of low-income parents, 25 percent worry that their kids don't get enough to eat between school lunch and breakfast the following day. The At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program and the National School Lunch snack program helps kids get the nutritious food they need in a safe, supervised location after the school day ends. The resources in this section will help you to promote the benefits of afterschool snacks and meals in your community.

Raise awareness about afterschool meals programs

According to No Kid Hungry research, only a third of parents know of an afterschool program that provides food for their children, but three-quarters of parents are interested in programs that do so.  As one of the newest child nutrition programs, awareness and participation in the program remain low. You can raise awareness among families by visiting afterschool meals programs to reinforce their importance, posting information on your websites or through social media and encouraging schools in their community to inform students about existing programs. Use the afterschool meals outreach materials to spread the word about afterschool programs in your community.  

Encourage schools to serve afterschool meals

Schools are an ideal location for afterschool nutrition programs because kids are already on site and schools are trusted by parents, may already offer afterschool activities and have the staff, equipment, and know-how to prepare meals.  Elected officials can help to increase access to the afterschool meals program by working with state agencies and schools to ensure there are enough accessible afterschool meals sites in their communities. Encourage your state agencies to reach out to schools in your community that are eligible to participate in CACFP, particularly schools that receive Title I funding or that receive grant funding through the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program. State agencies should also encourage schools to operate effective afterschool meals serving models.

Sponsor legislation to encourage expansion of the afterschool meals programs

Legislators, governors and mayors can help to expand access to the afterschool meals programs by allocating state or city funding to support site expansion or to require schools to participate in the program in high-need areas. Legislative or district-level policies can improve program efficiency and reach by encouraging data sharing between state agencies and non-profit partners, streamlining administrative processes for school food authorities or out-of-school time meal sponsors and providing grants for afterschool programs that serve meals.  For more examples of state legislative actions, visit the Afterschool Meals Policy and Advocacy Policy page.