Afterschool Meal Programs Yield Real Returns
Roxanne Moore
Roxanne Moore
National Director of Wellness Brand Management Team Sodexo School Services, North America

School administrators know all too well the nutritional challenges many students face in and out of the classroom, whether it’s students rushing off to busy afterschool activities or those returning home to care for siblings. In many cases, students are waiting on family members to arrive after a long day of work. Why is this significant after the school day ends? Ensuring students have access to that evening meal can make a difference in their academic achievement. For example, an evening meal can give students the energy to complete their homework or have a better night’s rest to prepare for the next day of learning.

Can afterschool meal programs help fill the hunger gap in students after the school day ends? Yes, so much so, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), a federal program, provides funding to educational institutions, whether school or community-based, to administer healthy meals including afterschool meals to infants, children, teens and adults in eligible low-income areas.

CACFP is relatively new with room to grow as more sponsoring organizations administer afterschool meals program, more locations serve more meals and more students receive meals at each location. The benefits are there—afterschool meal programs help students get that evening meal for nourishment; schools get a revenue channel and generate jobs for school nutrition departments.

What’s an effective way to start an afterschool meal program? Many school leaders cite challenges with providing afterschool meal programs including unpredictable participation, rigid bus schedules, and coordinating with numerous activity leaders and staff. For help, enter the Umbrella Model, an afterschool meal delivery program open to all students—not just those participating in after-school activities. The meals come to the student typically in a central location or throughout the school building, e.g. the cafeteria, multi-purpose room or even the library. The goal is to make meals accessible for any student after school.

Need proof that this model works? A recent series of afterschool meal program pilots led by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, cited credible results of over 50% of increased afterschool meal participation for middle and high schools that employed strategies under the Umbrella Model. One of Sodexo’s Food Service General Managers, Pam Watson, participated in the pilot with Share Our Strength and helped prove the return on investment is real.

She shares, “After I applied for the grant to participate in the Umbrella Model for high school students, I worked with my superintendent, principal and staff to develop a plan to reach students after school. Because we’re in a rural area, the bus ride home could be up to an hour, so we had plenty of students who benefited from the meals. In addition, location, location, location is critical. We set up in front of the school where the bus stops; a prime area because the students did not have to go all the way to the back of the school, and it allowed students who rode the bus who were not staying after school to have a meal. It was a WIN-WIN for all involved!”

How can your school bridge the hunger gap students could be facing at your school? Sodexo’s registered dietitians and nutrition experts can help your administration team develop a plan specific to your school’s needs under the CACFP using the Umbrella Model. More students at your school fed with more nutritious meals yields more academic achievement outcomes—the greatest return on investment. For more information on how Sodexo can help your schools bridge the afterschool hunger gap, contact me or your local Sodexo team.

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