The At-Risk Afterschool Meals component of the CACFP, commonly known as the Afterschool Meals Program, allows educational or enrichment programs in eligible low-income areas to serve a meal and/or snack each day to kids and teens ages 18 and under. Since the meal must be served after the bell on school days, the most common meal served through this program is supper. As a result, sometimes the program is known simply as "the supper program." However, as described in 365 Days of Service with Child Nutrition Programs, programs that operate on weekends, holidays, or other breaks during the school year can provide any one meal as well as a snack. The Afterschool Meals Program does not provide reimbursements when school is not in session except in areas with a year-round school calendar. Most participating organizations can transition to one of the summer nutrition programs.
Each participating location must be within the attendance boundary of a public elementary, middle or high school where at least half of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. If the location qualifies, no enrollment or eligibility information is required from children or families, and all meals and snacks are funded at the same level for all participants. Visit the USDA webpage to see the current funding levels.
Drop-in programs are eligible to participate, and programs are also permitted to require enrollment in the enrichment activity. Programs may also charge a reasonable fee for activities and supervision. The meals and snacks must still be offered at no separate charge to children.
The Afterschool Meals Program is open to schools, community-based non-profit organizations, and certain for-profit child care providers. Programs may partner with another organization to provide educational or enrichment activities or leverage volunteers. Additionally, afterschool enrichment programs can work with other organizations known as sponsors to help administer the Afterschool Meals Program.
How Afterschool Meals Reach Kids summarizes how the program works from Congress to kids. For additional information on operating the Afterschool Meals Program, you can read the USDA’s At-Risk Afterschool Meals Handbook. If you want to begin offering afterschool meals or snacks at your afterschool program, listen to our webinar on getting started and review these FAQs -- both detail some easy next steps you can take.
The Outside-School-Hours Care component of the CACFP is an option for afterschool programs that do not qualify as area-eligible based on the 50 percent threshold for in-boundary schools. However, meals are reimbursable only for children ages 12 and under. In addition, programs must collect enrollment and eligibility documentation, and meals are reimbursed according to each child’s eligibility status. Although Outside-School-Hours Care programs may not operate on weekends only, they can operate on weekends in addition to weekdays, and they are also eligible to serve up to two meals and one snack daily.
The NSLP Area-Eligible Snack Program is most similar to the CACFP Afterschool Meals Program in that it makes snacks available free of charge to all kids, regardless of their school meal eligibility status, through afterschool educational or enrichment programs. Each location must qualify as area-eligible based on the 50 percent threshold for in-boundary schools. Unlike the CACFP Afterschool Meals Program, there is no option for a supper, and snacks can only be served on days that school is in session.
The Afterschool Snack Program through the NSLP allows schools that do not meet the area-eligibility threshold to serve snacks. In this case, snacks are reimbursed according to each child’s eligibility status as determined through the school meal benefit application.
Afterschool snacks through the CACFP and NSLP date back to the 1990s. The option for afterschool meals only became available through pilots in select states starting in 2000 and then nationwide in 2010. In recognition of the ten year anniversary of the Afterschool Meals Program as part of the CACFP, No Kid Hungry released a report, Celebrating Ten Years of Afterschool Meals: Looking Back and Looking Ahead. This report and companion micro-report details the history of the program, charts its growth, explores promising practices, and offers recommendations for its future.
Both the CACFP and NSLP are administered at the federal level by the USDA and in each state and territory by a designated agency. The host agency may or may not be the same in each state. To learn more about how these programs and their afterschool components are run at the state level, read the Center for Best Practices report State Agency Administration of Afterschool Snack and Meal Programs. You can also visit the USDA website to find out which agencies house the CACFP and NSLP in your state. Read the overview Understanding Afterschool Snacks and Meals to learn more about the similarities and differences in requirements between these programs.