Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Legislation—After-School Meals

New legislation has been passed that calls for After-School Meals. This new program is and expansion of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and is going to provide a new funding stream for after-school programs. This program will help programs to provide a more substantial snack during the after-school program which can, if it must, replace the evening meal.

This legislation may help all of us address the challenge of snacks that kids will eat. When I was running program several years ago, I was visiting an elementary site. I was talking with one of the second grade students about what they liked about the program and what he didn’t like about the program. One of the things he mentioned that he did not like was the snack. I asked why this was. He explained that the snacks often were too small, not very tasty, and it seemed to him that the same snack was served over and over. He then gave this classic example when he said, “Today we had donut holes. Now I don’t know about you, but I would rather have the whole donut if that’s what we are going to have.” Although I am certainly not advocating donuts as the snack, I think the boy hit on one of the challenges we face in after-school: snack that does not reflect any input from students.

We took advantage of this opportunity to create a committee of youth to work with our Food Services Team to provide feedback and input on the menus. Food Services taught this committee about the challenge they face in selecting snacks that meet federal guide lines. Both developed a keen appreciation for the other’s point of view.

Perhaps this new legislation can open the door for another conversation and stronger partnership between after-school and food services or other snack providers. There are new nutrition guidelines for 2011 that will hopefully expand that flexibility we have in selecting nutritious as well as delicious snacks.

For additional information you can contact the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) or the Child Division, Food and Nutrition Service, of the U.S. department of Agriculture.

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