Afterschool Meals: Portland Public Schools
Afterschool meals are critical for children to learn, grow, and thrive. When kids get to afterschool programming, it’s been hours since they’ve had lunch. They are hungry. When schools don’t offer an afterschool meal program, kids often leave school with lunch being their last meal of the day. We must do better.
Schools and nonprofits trying to start an afterschool meal program face a complex set of barriers. First, they must have support from the Board of Directors or School Board and Superintendent, equipment to produce and serve food, strategies to market the program, afterschool enrichment programming, and staff trained to comply with complicated federal regulations.
Because of these barriers, there are currently only 40 out of 242 eligible schools providing afterschool meals. This means that only 16% of eligible students are getting a nutritious meal before they go home.
The new Oakhurst Afterschool Meals Grant Program helps eligible schools and qualified enrichment programs throughout the state provide more free after school meals for Maine students who need them. Oakhurst is donating $300,000 to Full Plates Full Potential to fund the grant program. This new funding will help scale the afterschool meal program school meal program and sustain the program’s infrastructure over time.
The Oakhurst Afterschool Meals Grant Program is already at work providing support, funding, and technical expertise to schools and nonprofits across the state. Our first round of grants is supporting seven nonprofits and one school. Grants supported programs from Westbrook to Presque Isle and range from $1600 to $5000.
Oakhurst CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals: Portland Public Schools
Portland Public Schools (PPS) serves nearly 7,000 students every day—53% of those students are eligible for free and reduced price school meals. While Portland is a burgeoning city, there are still many students experiencing hunger, homelessness, and other issues caused by poverty. To help alleviate these problems, Portland’s School Nutrition Director Jane McLucas started an afterschool meal program, or SuperSnack, at 6 elementary schools through the Child and Adult Care Food Program At-Risk Afterschool Meals (CACFP) with the support of an $11,916 grant from Full Plates Full Potential. This one-time investment to support the purchase of equipment to transport meals to students resulted in just over $150,000 in federal reimbursements that were reinvested in PPS’s School Nutrition program. Now, students can access three meals a day at school with Super Snacks filling the hunger gap between school lunch and school breakfast the next morning. During the 2018-2019 school year, PPS served approximately 44,000 SuperSnacks across those 6 schools. This fall, PPS received an additional $2000 grant through the Oakhurst Afterschool Meals Grant Program to support a partnership with Portland Community Squash to provide meals to children attending their afterschool programs. They are currently serving up to 400 students a day afterschool, and are on track to provide 50,000 Supersnacks to students in Portland during the 2019/2020 school year.
Programs that serve full afterschool meals are a game changer for families experiencing food insecurity, as well as for all students staying after school to partake in sports, enrichment activities, and homework help. Many students eat lunch early in the day, and are very hungry by the time that school lets out. Having access to afterschool meals helps these students to grow, thrive, and fully participate. And for those students relying on school meals as a guaranteed source of nutrition, afterschool meals help to bridge the gap between lunch and school breakfast the next morning.