A new national report on federal afterschool nutrition programs finds Hawai‘i lagging far behind other states in serving afterschool suppers to low-income children and youth. Afterschool Suppers: A Snapshot of Participation, published by the Food Research and Action Center, looks at participation in the federally funded afterschool nutrition programs at the national level and for each state.
Afterschool nutrition programs allow schools, local government agencies, and private nonprofits to serve reimbursable meals and snacks to children after school, on weekends, and during school holidays. Afterschool nutrition programs play an important role in reducing hunger and supporting quality afterschool enrichment programs.
The report’s key indicator compares the number of low-income students who participated in school lunch with the number who received afterschool suppers in 2019. While the national average is about 13 students having supper for every 200 who ate free or reduced-price school lunch, Hawai‘i served fewer than 1 in 200. That places Hawai‘i in last place among the states for the second year in a row.
In addition, federal funding is available to serve supper to children at afterschool programs in low-income communities. These dollars can help children get needed nutrition after school, as well as free up funds for afterschool programs to expand their reach and/or improve the quality of the food that they serve.
The District of Columbia is serving more than 30 children for every 200 students getting free or reduced-price school lunch. If Hawai‘i were to reach that modest goal, 9,300 additional low-income keiki would be getting an afterschool supper, and our state would be receiving over $615,000 more per year in federal reimbursements.
Hawaiʻi afterschool programs that have participated in the federal supper program say that it reinforces the healthy living messages that they teach to their children and youth. Others have reported that many youth tell them that these suppers are often their only meal until the next school day.
While the pandemic has made school days look very different this year, afterschool programs will soon again provide important enrichment activities and safe spaces for the children in low-income communities. Finding ways for more programs to serve afterschool suppers can provide financial support to these essential programs as well as reduce childhood hunger in Hawaii.