In addition to highlighting best practices to adopt at the state agency level, this section provides ideas on how to support schools, sponsors, and sites in doing the same.

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For CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals State Agency Officials
boy eating snack at his desk

These suggestions are tailored to the administrators working on the CACFP, emphasizing strategies that enhance the promotion and implementation of the At-Risk Afterschool Meals component.

Streamline and clarify health and safety standards.

The federal regulations require compliance with state and local health and safety standards. This often causes confusion among state agencies, sponsors, and community-based program locations. In addition, state or local health and safety officials may not know that the Afterschool Meals Program exists, much less how it operates. To remedy this:

  • Collaborate with relevant state, county, and municipal health and safety officials as well as SFSP state agency officials to develop, clarify, and/or streamline health and safety standards for Afterschool Meals sites.
  • Provide information and training to relevant state, county, and municipal health and safety officials.
  • If necessary, engage state and local elected officials and policy makers to create or amend standards to ensure safe sites without undue burdens.
  • Provide clear and easy-to-access guidelines to sponsors and sites on how to meet health and safety standards depending on location and meal service type (e.g. hot meals versus cold meals).

An intern or non-profit partner may be helpful in researching existing state, county, and municipal standards as well as arranging meetings with other officials.

Take advantage of USDA-approved streamlining options

  • Waive the pre-application training requirements for school food authorities. Provide tailored, on-demand training on CACFP-specific requirements and procedures, such as through web-based training modules.
  • Provide guidance on streamlined monitoring for schools as well as sites that operate year-round with SFSP.
  • Eliminate the requirement for school food authorities and successful SFSP sponsors to document financial viability and administrative capability.

Related to this, the Florida Department of Health has two training modules available online for SFSP sponsors transitioning to CACFP Afterschool.

For additional ideas on how to fully coordinate and streamline between CACFP Afterschool Meals and SFSP, review this checklist.

Provide annual training tailored to Afterschool Meals sponsors, especially schools.

Afterschool Meals sponsors do not have to worry about enrollment records and eligibility determinations, and they rarely serve infants, which makes some typical CACFP training content irrelevant. Create web-based training modules if it is not possible or convenient to hold in-person training sessions for this segment of CACFP participants. Or, consider arranging the training agenda so that Afterschool Meals sponsors can leave after the applicable content has been covered.

Promote Effective Service Models

Help sponsors and sites to effectively increase participation by supporting and providing guidance on effective Afterschool Meals Program models and best practices that align with USDA policy. These models include the Umbrella Model and Supper in the Classroom – both of these can reduce the stigma of afterschool meals and boost participation. Many schools and sponsors need reassurance that these models are permissible and that their procedures comply with rules and expectations.

In addition to these models, encourage and promote meals during non-traditional service times, such as weekends, holidays, and breaks during the school year as well as unanticipated school closures. Work with school, NSLP, and SFSP officials to give consistent guidance and ensure that the programs and sponsors are working cohesively rather duplicating efforts.

Promote Afterschool Meals to Potential Sponsors and Sites

Most states still have some eligible programs and schools that are not serving afterschool meals. Encourage continued growth by:

  • Reaching out to schools, SFSP sponsors and sites, parks and recreation departments, food banks, state afterschool alliances and networks, 21st Century Community Learning Center grantees, YMCA branches, Boys and Girls Clubs, and any other state-based afterschool programming funders or advocates;
  • Leveraging agency communications, such as newsletters sent to school administrators or nutrition directors;
  • Presenting at agency-sponsored events, such as annual training for school food authorities, as well as pertinent community or association events.
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For Summer Meals State Agency Officials
kids eating summer meals

These tips will help Summer Food Service Program and NSLP Seamless Summer Option officials to engage in collaborative planning and promote improved access to summer meals.

Engage in Collaborative Planning

Collaborative planning has been particularly effective in expanding summer meals programs due to the importance of pooling and coordinating resources from a wide network. State agencies can replicate this success in their own states by leading statewide or regional collaborative planning efforts with sponsors, community partners, and other agencies. A typical method is hosting debrief and planning meetings.

  • Many states have found that regional meetings are often more successful than statewide meetings due to travel constraints.
    • Nebraska went a step further and instituted year-round regional sponsor councils.
    • Others like Idaho have done debrief webinars to better engage rural partners.
  • In some cases, other organizations may be able to support or even lead elements of the collaborative planning process, so partnering with them can be an effective use of time and resources.
    • For example, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has partnered with Florida Impact on these meetings.

For more information on collaborative planning, see the collaborative planning section of our website.

Improve Application Processes

Develop application and approval systems and deadlines that allow sponsors to add new sites or close underperforming sites throughout the summer in response to demand. Also include whether sponsors and sites may decide operate during unanticipated school closures (like snow days) during the school year.

Promote Methods to Increase Access

There are several approaches, including some relatively simple measures, that can make it easier for kids in need to get meals when and where they need them. State agencies can encourage sponsors to adopt these practices, such as:

  • Serving more than one meal per day at each site (such as adding breakfast or a snack in addition to lunch),
  • Mobile meals routes that reach areas that do not have the capacity to operate sites.
  • Serving meals during unanticipated school closures (like snow days) during the school year, and
  • Serving meals on weekends,
  • Adding service days, especially at the very beginning or end of the summer,
  • Allowing sites to operate in the evening and serve suppers,
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For NSLP/SBP State Agency Officials
students transporting breakfast to the classroom

These strategies will help National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program officials to support Breakfast After the Bell and CEP as well as develop champions to help these efforts.

Promote Breakfast After the Bell

Breakfast After the Bell (BAB) is the most effective way to ensure that kids have access to a healthy morning meal. To help districts and schools adopt models that make breakfast available as part of the school day:

  • Track each school’s breakfast service model; conduct targeted outreach to high-need schools that have yet to adopt a BAB model and offer technical assistance to low-performing schools that have already implemented BAB.
  • Provide education and training on BAB models, such as during training for school nutrition professionals, to encourage districts and schools to implement the one that works best for them. Or, partner with other organizations that can provide training.
  • Share resources to support BAB implementation and maintenance, such as those in the BAB implementation section of our website.
  • Work with the state superintendent to issue a memo that clarifies that breakfast counts as instructional time.
  • Target equipment grants to districts or schools implementing BAB models and promote additional grant opportunities to support BAB implementation.

Improve Direct Certification and Promote CEP

Direct Certification and the Community Eligibility Provision go hand-in-hand to ease the administrative burden on schools and families while reducing stigma and promoting participation. Continue to strengthen direct certification procedures and promote expansion of CEP. If necessary, explore policy options to clarify and enhance direct certification and CEP.   

Cultivate Champions and Mentors

Create a network of school-based champions, such as school nutrition directors, teachers, and principals who are executing high-quality and innovative lunch and breakfast models. These professionals can share best practices and provide guidance to their peers. Identifying and showcasing schools that have high lunch and breakfast participation is another strategy to find and promote leaders.

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Effective Promotion

As a state agency, you have the reach and resources to ensure that the kids, families, and the broader community know about these valuable programs.

  • If funding does not allow for marketing and design experts, utilize interns or AmeriCorps or AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers to help create outreach materials, solicit input from your target audiences, and conduct outreach activities. Or, consider holding a competition for students to suggest slogans, logos, or mascots to promote the programs in ways that resonate with them.
  • Leverage agency, state, or city projects and events, like incorporating information on Summer Meals into initiatives around summer learning loss.
  • Launch a “challenge” for schools to compete for increased participation, which encourages better service and promotion to kids and families. They often generate free press as well.
    • This strategy is most commonly used with School Breakfast, and states like Virginia have well-established annual challenges supported by the state agency and private partners.
    • This strategy could also be applied to other programs as well as non-profits sponsors and sites. For example, the Oregon Department of Education started a “one more” challenge for summer meals sponsors, asking them to do “one more” thing to increase participation, like adding a new site or a new service day.
  • Make it easy for schools to promote child nutrition programs by providing resources like flyers, customizable templates, sample language or scripts for robocalls and announcements, and links where students and families can learn more.
  • Maximize your impact with comprehensive program marketing plans and coordinated state- and city-wide promotional campaigns.
    • Many of these to date have been the product of public-private partnerships, including Michigan’s “Meet Up and Eat Up” branding for Summer Meals and the “Rise & Shine Illinois” campaign. Florida’s “Summer BreakSpot” began as a local marketing campaign developed through a partnership between the state agency and a nonprofit organization that drew on student input. After a successful summer, it became the state’s official branding for summer meals sites.

Share No Kid Hungry outreach resources for School Breakfast, Summer Meals, and Afterschool. In addition, take advantage of existing tools that increase awareness of the Summer Meals program and connect families to nearby sites. These include the Summer Meals texting program, the USDA National Hunger Hotline, and the USDA’s Summer Meals Site Finder website.

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Strategies for Retention
Adults in meeting

Keeping high-quality schools, sponsors, and sites in the programs is important to maintaining high participation and compliance.

Provide encouragement and support by publicly recognizing or giving awards to high-performing schools, school districts, sponsoring organizations, and sites. This recognition could be for participation levels, good compliance, long-standing participation in the program, community engagement, or other areas.

Create a culture that fosters trust and openness with sponsors and schools districts. Taking the time to build positive relationships and address concerns can help sponsors and school districts to feel supported while promoting compliance. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as having regular check-in calls or meetings, hosting conference calls or small group meetings based on size, location, or other shared characteristics, or holding “office hours” to be available for questions by phone or in person. A partner organization could help to facilitate or host meetings and conference calls.

Facilitate peer mentoring and information sharing among participating organizations to help them learn from and support each other. The Kansas State Department of Education implemented a mentorship program for SFSP sponsors and found that it was relatively simple to organize. The Institute of Child Nutrition’s Team Up model and resources for schools can help you to set up a similar program.