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Afterschool program offers free supper for at-risk kids

By Mary Richards | Posted - Mar 15th, 2013 @ 11:50am

SALT LAKE CITY — The government recently expanded the Afterschool Meal Program to provide more meals for the most needy, and as a result, many Utah kids are now getting free supper.

The program primarily targets kids who may not get any food until breakfast the next morning. However, it's not just for young children; teens who go somewhere after school to be safe and get homework help are eligible for meals as well.

"There were a lot of kids going home hungry at the end of the day and we were concerned," she said.

Students can already get free breakfast and lunch if they meet the requirements and fill out the paperwork, and the after-school-meal used to be a snack program. However, now organizations that offer enrichment activities for kids after school can provide supper and be reimbursed if they meet the USDA's requirements.

"Any kind of enrichment type of activity for those children, they would be eligible to provide this meal," Elliott said.

USDA rules for afterschool snacks/meals
The USDA requires that afterschool meals and snacks be given at afterschool programs that meet these criteria:
  • Located where at least half of the children in attendance are eligible for free or reduced-price meals
  • Activities must be educational or enriching
  • Meals or snacks must be nutritionally balanced
Source: Afterschool Meal Program website

In January, 28 sites offered the food, reaching 3600 children. Luann Elliott, the director of child nutrition programs at the state Office of Education said the program is meant for low-income areas.

"It's a healthy program," Elliott said. "It's fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and those are sometimes foods that kids who are living in a low-income circumstance — it's not always accessible to them"

Elliott hopes more groups and students find out about the program, because they have seen it be a life-saver. In many cases, organizations are already giving out snacks and stretching their budget to make it work. However, organizations like boys and girls clubs, after school groups, YMCA and faith-based groups could be eligible for reimbursement to lighten the load while helping the kids.

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