Not-in-School-Time Meals (CACFP/CACFP At-Risk)
Outside of the traditional school day (and age), infants and children have other opportunities to eat federal-funded healthy meals. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and its related At-Risk Meal program are U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) food programs. Administered by the Minnesota Dept. of Education (MDE), CACFP and At-Risk Meal program fund healthy meals and snacks for infants and children up to 18 years old during the school year, with higher reimbursement rates for those who qualify for the at-risk component.
Schools, as well as other organizations that have children and youth programs, are eligible to receive federal reimbursements for meals and snacks based on certain criteria including thresholds of children eligible for free and reduced price school meals, standards of educational or enrichment programming, compliance with state and local laws/codes, and USDA nutrition standards.
In consultation with MDE staff partners, Hunger Impact Partners’ leadership identified two initial not-in-school-time opportunities to feed hungry children.
- Increase enrollment of licensed child care centers, thus increasing rate of meals consumed beyond the current level of 25 percent
- Increase enrollment of youth programs in CACFP At-Risk Meal Program offerings at sites already participating in CACFP
- Transition school sites currently offering snacks through the School Nutrition Program to At-Risk CACFP suppers, which should raise consumption beyond the current consumption rate
HUNGER IMPACT PARTNERS APPROACH: ENROLLING LICENSED CHILD CARE CENTERS
In 2015, Minnesota had 434 licensed day care sites where at least half of the children are eligible for free or reduced price meals. This adds up to a total of 26, 520 food-insecure kids. While these centers could earn as much as $1.62 per free breakfast or $2.98 + cash in lieu of commodities for a free lunch or supper, there are barriers to participation. Compliance requirements are cumbersome, there is a shortage of the required program sponsors and little program awareness.
With its stakeholders, Hunger Impact Partners is:
- Developing strategies for raising program awareness of available enrollment process support
- Identifying and helping to pre-qualify sites through proprietary data analysis
- Developing and supporting sponsors through an evolving partner network of hub organizations
- Building success stories and awareness
- Facilitating nutrition education, meal planning and service
HUNGER IMPACT PARTNERS APPROACH: INCREASING PARTICIPATION OF YOUTH PROGRAMS IN CACFP AT-RISK AFTER-SCHOOL MEAL PROGRAM
The CACFP After-School Meal Program is new to Minnesota and needs to build demand and enrollment.
As of 2014-2015, there were 544 eligible school sites (only 75 participated) and 100 eligible community sites (100 participated). All told, 218,851 children were enrolled in these programs, of which 133,773 are eligible for free or reduced price meals.
MDE staff recommends working to increase the at-risk supper offerings at sites already participating in CACFP. They also recommend moving eligible school sites currently participating in USDA’s School Nutrition Program for after-school snacks into the at-risk supper from CACFP.
With its stakeholders, Hunger Impact Partners is:
- Raising awareness of program and higher reimbursement opportunity
- Reaching out to after-school academic programs in schools and communities
- Working with summer feeding sites to offer CACFP suppers as well
- Working to migrate existing snack participation to supper, or add a supper to a program
- Designing an incentive initiative
Hungry for Wins: Food to Fuel Your After-School Life
When a child eats well throughout the day, the benefits are significant and obvious. Adults—coaches, activity directors, and meal coordinators—see the difference. “The after-school dinner program for athletes is a great success,” note a soccer coach at South High School. “Participants gravitated to the dinner line feeling energized and comfortable. They were able to eat and spend time together in a welcoming atmosphere. Most students do not eat after lunch and need nutrition later in the day especially if they are playing sports into the evening. Knowing they have a meal after practice allows them to work harder during extracurricular activities, transition into their academic pursuits, and relinquish their fear of going to bed without dinner. From my experience, I am in full support of growing the dinner program. It means a lot to the kids.”
A dinner coordinator at Henry High School amplified the coach’s observations: “Every day I’m there students tell me how awesome the program is and how thankful they are. It warms my heart to hear how good the food is. Also, a student mentioned that she was going to blog the district to let them know how thankful she is for the dinner program. I’m thankful for the opportunity to work this program.”
“The dinner program fills a huge void in the nutritional development of our athletes,” echoed an athletic director at Roosevelt High School. “Prior to the dinner program, our athletes were practicing and playing on empty stomachs which reflected in less productivity and less energy in their play. The dinner program is the MVP!!”
The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service program that helps provide nutritious food to child and adult care institutions and family or group day care homes.
The program started in 1968. In 2015 the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act instituted nutrition standards to guarantee that the program delivered food that was healthy and balanced throughout the day. (After-school programs are served through the CACFP At-Risk program, a component of the overall effort. “At-Risk,” in this context, refers to the challenge of meeting nutritional needs when kids are neither in school nor at home.)
CACFP is available when the percentage of children enrolled in school in each area who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, exceeds 50%.
Based on previous year school data, school and center sites are eligible to be reimbursed for snacks and at-risk meals at the free rate if located in a school attendance area where at least 50% of the enrolled children are eligible for free or reduced price school meals.
Hunger Impact Partner (HIP) focuses on children and their nutritional needs. We want to ensure that kids can access nutritious food and, in the process, activate the federal reimbursement funds to return to those feeding sites to sustain their program.
After school or out-of-school times pose a challenge for children who are hungry and yet participating in activities, such athletics, drama, debate and other special interest clubs, 4-H and other extra-curricular pursuits.
Implementing CACFP at schools and other sites with eligible children faces many challenges: the program’s complex tracking and reporting requirements; increasing utilization of and access to the program; gaining greater exposure for the program; and relatively few sites that offer the feeding program. Some of the issues include limited administrative hours, too few children are present and staffing challenges for food service workers.
Hunger-Free Minnesota, HIP’s preceding organization, recognized the important role of schools in facilitating CACFP. They already have the basic infrastructure in place for feeding children during the day, they often serve as the base for such athletics and clubs like debate, robotics, honor societies, school government, and others. As HIP evolved to focusing on feeding kids, we came to an agreement with the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) to fund a pilot position within its Culinary and Nutrition Services. This position was tasked with expanding CACFP/CACFP At-Risk access, adding sites, increasing participation, and facilitating the draw-down of USDA reimbursement dollars.
In December 2014, MPS promoted Sara Eugene, a dietetic specialist in the system since 2012, to the newly-created position of Extended School Meals Coordinator. Eugene, a St. Paul native and a 2007 graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), began her work with the opinion that “I know that once a child is fed good, quality food, successful learning can take place,” and added (in a University of Minnesota profile) that “I love that it’s my job as part of the MPS team to make that possible. My passion and my work are one in the same.”
Her accomplishment has been significant. When Eugene started working with MPS in the 2014-2015 school year, the program served five sites, all of which were schools. Average monthly meals served and reimbursement revenue, as shown in the table below, were modest. Two academic years later, MPS was serving an average of 52,000 meals and claiming $140,000 per month at 68 school and community sites.
- The program also has had a ripple effect in the community:
With MPS partnering with the YMCA Beacons Program at Roosevelt High School to provide after-school food, the money in the budget originally earmarked for food was freed and used to hire two additional YMCA staff members.
- The Athletic Director at Patrick Henry Senior High school noted that participation in the winter sports/tutoring programs has increased because students know they can rely on a hot meal after school.
- The Police Athletic League was able to divert budget money allocated for food to enriching its after-school programs. University of Minnesota interns who volunteer with PAL are also gaining valuable experience with federal meal programs reporting by completing check off sheets and attendance checks.
By the Numbers – MPS Not-in-School-Time Program Data, 2014/2015 to 2017/2018
Eugene attributes success to the connections she has developed inside the Department of Education and with community advocates. “The primary difference,” she explains, “has been knowing who to connect with regarding existing after-school programs that may need food.” She talks with staff at after-school activity sites, making sure that they know the rules and follow the reporting requirements, and gains their trust and willingness to share information about improvements. The better these relationships are, the more likely it is that the related programs will meet and exceed mission expectations.
She points out that none of the sites now serving food “were ‘created’ for solely that purpose … [they were all] existing programs that had been either not providing food or providing food out of their own budget.” The fact that kids were already congregated in a setting made her work, as she put it, “easy(ish)” –the audience was already there at the table.
For Additional Information and Background on CACFP/CACFP At-Risk
Child and Adult Care Food Program info on USDA site