D.C. Earns Top Spot in Afterschool Meals Participation, New Report Finds
WASHINGTON, October 23, 2019 — Nearly 10,000 children in the District of Columbia benefitted from afterschool suppers on an average weekday in October 2018, according to Afterschool Suppers: A Snapshot of Participation, a new report from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC, a national anti-hunger advocacy group). The report measures how many children participated in the Afterschool Nutrition Programs, nationally and by state.
D.C. had the greatest reach in the nation of children in the Afterschool Supper Program, exceeding FRAC’s goal for states to serve afterschool supper to at least 15 children for every 100 who participated in free and reduced-price lunch school lunch. D.C. served 22 children afterschool suppers for every 100 who received school lunch in October 2018.
“The nutrition and enrichment activities provided through afterschool programs support children’s health and learning,” said Beverley Wheeler, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “While we are excited to be providing so many children with the nutrition they need through afterschool suppers, we must strengthen efforts to ensure more children who rely on school lunch also can access afterschool supper.”
Child Nutrition Reauthorization, currently being considered by Congress, provides an opportunity to streamline eligibility requirements to allow more children to receive afterschool meals. This, combined with more private and public funding for afterschool programs, would allow sponsors in the District — D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) are the biggest afterschool program sponsors — to reach more children with afterschool suppers.
Despite the District’s high participation rate, the number of afterschool suppers served remained essentially unchanged between October 2017 and October 2018, and the demand for quality afterschool programming still far exceeds supply, particularly in low-income neighborhoods.
Opportunities for improvement may come with the implementation of the Healthy Parks Amendment Act of 2018, passed by the D.C. Council last year. The Act requires DPR to offer all children attending a DPR-sponsored afterschool program a supper through the Afterschool Nutrition Programs. The Council is currently in the process of implementing the law, and through advocacy, D.C. Hunger Solutions helped ensure full funding of the law in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.
“DPR is one of the largest providers of afterschool programming in the District, and increasing the reach of afterschool meals through DPR will help ensure more low-income children receive a supper once their classes wrap up for the day,” said Wheeler.
Many formal and informal afterschool activities and programs take place at schools, and as such the District’s many charter schools represent a largely untapped opportunity to increase participation in afterschool suppers. Approximately 45 percent of school-aged children in the District attend charter schools, and afterschool programs can be operated either by the school or a community-based organization (CBO). For example, DCPS offers afterschool programming at the vast majority of its schools, and afterschool suppers at 72 sites. More charter schools should model DCPS and leverage CBO partnerships and internal programming to create spaces for afterschool learning and nutrition.
D.C. Hunger Solutions, an initiative of the Food Research & Action Center, works to end hunger in the nation’s capital and improve the nutrition, health, economic security, and well-being of low-income District residents.
The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. Learn more at frac.org.