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GOAL III Smart Servings For Students

Goal III: To provide healthy food to children and youth, local elected officials commit to expanding access to meal programs before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months.*

  • The LMCTC site is participating in an active collaboration involving the city/town/county, schools and other partners to expand access to programs that offer healthy food before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months.

  • At least two actions are taken to expand children’s access to programs that offer healthy food before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months; plus Bronze benchmark.

  • At least four approaches are used to publicize the availability of programs that offer healthy food before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months to make them more accessible to children; plus Bronze and Silver benchmarks.

*These benchmarks were revised in June 2014 to reflect what is currently listed, based on feedback from cities, towns and counties regarding the jurisdictional challenges to achieving the original bronze, silver and gold medals.

What are meal programs?

Meal programs help fight hunger and obesity by reimbursing organizations such as schools and cities/towns/counties for providing nutritious meals to children. These meal programs include the School Breakfast Program (SBP), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), afterschool programs through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) or NSLP and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Cities and counties may also provide meals and snacks not reimbursed through federal nutrition programs as part of city or county-managed afterschool or summer programs.

Why are these programs important?

Childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.1 2 Providing healthy meals and snacks to children at school is important for the millions of children who rely on school meals and snacks throughout the year. Participation in federally-funded child nutrition programs is associated with improved weight-related outcomes (e.g., reduced obesity risk or lower BMI) among school-age children and adolescents. Furthermore, over the course of a year, nutrition assistance programs reach one in four people in the United States3 and provide opportunities to improve diets and overall health, and can improve educational achievement. The SBP provides a nutritious breakfast every morning for many children who would otherwise go without one. Research has shown that students who eat breakfast increase their math and reading scores and improve their speed and memory in cognitive tests.4 According to USDA research, children who participate in the NSLP have greater nutritional intakes compared to those who do not participate.5 Afterschool and summer programs that serve healthy meals draw children and youth to programs that also include physical activity and academic enrichment opportunities.

About 31 million children receive free and reduced-price school lunch during an average school day.6 But when school is not in session, many children from low-income families who rely on school meals go hungry. The SFSP and the Seamless Summer Option (learn more) provide free, nutritious summer meals to children in areas with high concentrations of children from low-income families. Unfortunately, these summer meals reach only about 15 percent of eligible children nationally.7

What role can local elected officials play in expanding access to programs that offer healthy food?

By supporting efforts to expand access to meal programs, local elected officials can ensure that students receive at least two healthy meals every school day and during the summer months when school is not in session. Communities where local elected officials have expressed strong support for the summer meal programs have shown increases in summer meal participation.6 Local elected officials are trusted sources of information and have a clear understanding of the specific needs of families in their communities. As a result, they can be great advocates for meal programs in their community.

For more information about meal programs

Use the following links to learn additional background information, including how to start these programs:

  1. School Breakfast Program (SBP)
  2. National School Lunch Program (NSLP):
  3. Afterschool Nutrition Program:
  4. Summer Food Service Program (SFSP):

Steps to Success:

Do your city/town/county, your schools and other partners participate in an active collaboration to expand access to programs that offer healthy food before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months? Has your city/town/county taken two actions to expand children’s access to programs that offer healthy food before, during and after the school day, and/or over summer months? Have you used at least four approaches to publicize the availability of these programs?

Programs include the School Breakfast Program, the National School Lunch Program, the Afterschool Meal Program offered through the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program.

To achieve this goal, take action by following the steps below.

  1. BRONZE: To provide healthy food to children and youth, do you participate in an active collaboration involving the city/town/county, schools and other partners to expand access to programs that offer healthy food before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months? Note: this does not have to be a stand-alone partnership and can be incorporated into an existing city/town/county and school partnership. This partnership can help students in your municipality/county receive healthy meals before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months.
    • Representatives of this collaboration could include: elected officials, school superintendents, school board, principals and school nutrition directors, city or county agency directors/staff (including health departments and parks and recreation departments), parent teacher associations (PTAs), youth, businesses, hospitals, museums, food banks, faith-based organizations, civic organizations, restaurants, food vendors and other non-traditional partners who can play important roles in helping to provide healthy food to children and youth.
    • Consider whether you have existing task forces or committees already doing this work that could incorporate these activities within their mission. For example, could your community’s existing school wellness committee, healthy eating committee or food policy council address this goal?
    • Consider whether this collaboration:
      • Capitalizes on relationships with your city’s/town’s/county’s staff in human services, family and child services agencies, health departments, parks and recreation departments and neighborhood services agencies.
      • Includes elementary, middle and high schools in your community that offer meal programs.
      • Includes existing afterschool and summer enrichment programs that currently serve or may be interested in serving meals and/or snacks. These programs could be run by schools, parks and recreation departments, YMCAs, Campfire USA and/or Boys and Girls Clubs.
      • Includes summer meal programs.
      • Leverages your city’s/town’s/county’s Let’s Move! Task Force. If one exists, does a representative familiar with healthy meal programs participate in this task force?
      • Has a shared vision among all the stakeholders on child- and youth-centered programs that offer healthy food.
      • Includes organizations that could serve or are already serving as meal sponsors for summer meals. Learn more about sponsors.
  2. SILVER: With schools and other partners, take two actions to expand children’s access to programs that offer healthy food before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months. Such actions can include the city/town/county:
    • Serving as a sponsor for a healthy summer meal program. (Sponsors are organizations that manage Summer Food Service Program feeding sites. Learn more)
    • Serving as a feeding site, with another organization serving as a sponsor, providing healthy summer meals to children in city facilities, including parks, schools and recreation centers or during city-operated summer programs.
    • Providing healthy meals and/or snacks at city/town/county afterschool programs.
    • Collaborating with the private sector, nonprofits and/or faith-based organizations to expand the number of healthy afterschool meal and/or snack programs or summer meal programs.
    • Playing a role with schools increasing participation rates in school breakfast and school lunch programs. This could include building partnerships and working relationships with school officials, fostering connections between schools and local businesses/nonprofits and/or encouraging enrollment in the SBP and NSLP among families participating in other local government programs (e.g., low-income home energy assistance).

While developing healthy meal programs offered after school or during the summer, consider incorporating nutrition education and physical activity elements.

If you are a city and these programs are being provided by your county, do not feel you need to duplicate efforts; instead be at the table to discuss strategies to expand access to these programs.

    1. GOLD: Use at least four approaches to publicize the availability of programs that offer healthy food before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months to make these meal programs more accessible to children. Approaches to publicize the availability of these programs can include:
      • The city’s/town’s/county’s website.
      • The city’s/town’s/county’s public service agency newsletter or parks and recreation program guide.
      • A local elected official’s press announcement.
      • A state of the city/county address by a mayor/county executive or announcement at city/county council meeting.
      • Official statements by the city/town/ county supporting the availability and participation of students in these programs.
      • Media stories and ads (television, local public access channel, newspaper and radio).
      • Social media (e.g., Facebook and/or Twitter).
      • Ads, banners, or billboards.
      • A resource guide for parents and caregivers on the availability of these programs.
      • Visits made to schools or program sites by local elected official.
      • Community events and other opportunities for parents, caregivers and students to be informed of these opportunities for healthy meals.
      • Distribute information about nutrition programs at recreation centers, community centers, local housing authorities and Head Start programs, as well as WIC, SNAP and other human service offices that serve residents. (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children – known as WIC – is a preventive program providing low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children with nutritious foods, nutrition education, and improved access to health care in order to prevent nutrition-related health problems in pregnancy, infancy and early childhood. The SNAP/Food Stamp Program is the largest nutrition assistance program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).)
      • Seek authentic community input on these programs and opportunities to expand access of these programs.
      • Opportunities for public recognition by local elected official(s) for schools and programs sites who are maximizing participation in these programs.
    2. Report your progress by updating your Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC) medal status survey. In order to earn bronze, silver and gold medals when associated benchmarks are reached, a site must update their progress using their survey link to update their information. Sites received their survey link in their confirmation sign up email. If it has been misplaced, please send an email to lmctc@nlc.org to request the link.

Goal III Webinar:

A webinar on Goal III was held in July 2014 and demonstrated how local elected officials through LMCTC can achieve medals in the enhanced Goal III by expanding access to meal programs before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months.

Watch a recording of this webinar or download slides from the webinar.

Recognition:

A bronze medal will be earned when the LMCTC site participates in an active collaboration involving the city/town/county, schools and other partners to expand access to programs that offer healthy food before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months.

A silver medal will be earned when at least two actions are taken to expand children’s access to programs that offer healthy food before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months; plus Bronze benchmark.

A gold medal will be earned when at least four approaches are used to publicize the availability of programs that offer healthy food before, during and after the school day, and/or over the summer months to make these meals more accessible to children; plus Bronze and Silver benchmarks.

References:

1Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. Journal of the American Medical Association 2012;307(5):483-490.

2National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Features on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville, MD; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012.

3http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns/about/FY2013-priorities.pdf#page=4

4http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/school-breakfast-program/

5http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/national-school-lunch-program/

6http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/NSLPFactSheet.pdf

7http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/mayors_flyer.pdf

Going Beyond Gold

After you have completed all five goals, keep up the momentum by signing up for LMCTC All-Stars, which offers a set of eight advanced strategies for cities, towns and counties to pursue. More information about LMCTC All-Stars is available here.

Resources:

To access resources to help you succeed in accomplishing this goal, please click here.