Have you heard about the federal government’s Afterschool Meal Program?
Advocates in Texas are trying to get more schools and community organizations in their state to participate in the initiative, which is available to qualifying schools across the nation. Experts say the program is under-used, despite its power to provide low-income students with a free meal at the end of every school day.
“A lot of kids may not have a healthy meal to eat when they get home, and their parents may not be able to afford dinner every night,” Rachel Cooper, with Center for Public Policy Priorities, told The Dallas Morning News. “After-school meals make sure they get a good, healthy, full dinner and gives them the energy to do after-school programs.”
To be eligible for the program, at least 50 percent of students in the area must qualify for free- or reduced-price meals. In addition, the school must offer at least one after-school enrichment activity that’s open to all students.
Meals may also be served on the weekends, holidays, or over school breaks. Schools are reimbursed for each meal they provide to students.
Although program participation is growing, it remains “the least known of the child nutrition programs,” Cooper told The Dallas Morning News.
The program also has the potential to help more students become college-ready. Good nutrition and involvement with school activities have been shown to have a positive influence on academic achievement.
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