Afterschool Meals through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
What is the CACFP?
The CACFP is an afterschool meal program funded by the USDA and designed to ensure that kids and teens ages 18 and under have access to healthy foods when the school day ends. Afterschool meal sites are in safe, supervised places like churches, schools and community centers. In addition to the meal, children and teens have the option to participate in fun and enriching activities on-site.
Meals administered through the CACFP meet USDA guidelines and include healthy components essential to a balanced diet: a fruit, vegetable, whole-grain rich item, protein item, and milk. A typical meal, for example, might include a turkey sandwich on wheat bread, milk, an apple and a salad.
There is no application necessary to receive a meal and you do not have to show proof of income. Kids and teens 18 and younger can show up at an afterschool meal site during the site’s hours of operation and receive a meal, whether they choose to participate in the recreational activity offered or not.
Why Afterschool Meals through the CACFP?
All children and teens need healthy food regularly throughout their day in order to grow, learn and stay active. While not every student may need an afterschool meal before they go home, many could benefit from one. Some students have an early start to their day and have an early lunch period, leaving them hungry by the end of the school day. Kids involved in afterschool activities need extra fuel to focus and perform for long hours, especially if they get home late. Some kids simply do not know where their next meal may come from, due to varying factors like homelessness, unexpected medical expenses, or a job loss within the family.
The CACFP provides the fuel kids and teens need to ensure a healthy and active lifestyle, allowing their families to stretch their food budget just that much further. In addition, the funding provided through the CACFP means that afterschool programs don’t have to pay out-of-pocket for food or depend on donations and volunteers, and kids don’t have to rely on vending machines or granola bars brought from home.
Getting Started with Afterschool Meals
Afterschool meal sites are eligible for the CACFP, if:
- the program is located within the attendance area of a public school where at least half of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Contact MDE to see if you are eligible.
- the program provides supervised afterschool enrichment activities on a regularly scheduled basis
- the program meets any applicable state or local licensing, health and safety requirements OR your program operates in a school.
To get started, afterschool programs typically will work with a sponsor that handles most of the paperwork and necessary reporting duties, and who provides the food for the program. If your afterschool program operates within a school, it is recommended to contact the district’s school nutrition department to see if the district already offers afterschool meals.
If you are looking to start or expand a new site and/or program, please read below for contact information and grant funding opportunities.
Best Practices & Quick Links for CACFP Sponsors and Partners
- NKH Center of Best Practices – Afterschool Meals
- USDA CACFP Handbook
- USDA Area Eligibility Map
- MDE Eligibility Video
- MDE Find a Sponsor
- MDE NSLP vs. CACFP Guide
- MDE Menu Planning Resource Video
To get the latest updates on CACFP Best Practices, sign up for the Second Harvest Heartland Child Hunger newsletter here:
How does Second Harvest Heartland help?
Second Harvest Heartland works with schools and community partners to help start new and expand existing At-Risk After School programs, by:
If you are interested in working with us or have more questions on the CACFP, please contact Director of Programs Theresa McCormick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second Harvest Heartland, in partnership with Share Our Strength, is pleased to offer grant funding to support growth in afterschool meals programming and participation. This grant is available to new and returning schools and sponsors in Minnesota.
SHH provides grant opportunities throughout the year, to help offset the startup cost to implement afterschool meal programs, or to sustain existing afterschool meals programs. Check out our Funding Opportunities page to learn about current or upcoming grants. Funds can be used towards costs including (but not limited to):
- Equipment purchase
- Professional development