Ohio officials look to expand Afterschool Meal Program

Staff report


Ohio providers of child-nutrition programs came together earlier this month with Cincinnati Public Schools officials, representatives from the Ohio Department of Education and national and state-based anti-hunger advocates to learn how to implement and expand the Afterschool Meal Program to feed children after school, on weekends and during school holidays.

Working together, these stakeholders are working to eliminate childhood hunger in Ohio.

At the Child Nutrition Summit, state and regional program administrators and advocacy organizations shared best practices regarding:

Finding current opportunities for implementation and expansion of the Afterschool Meals Program.

Identifying meal site sponsors and ways to transition from a snack program to offering children full meals.

Ensuring that meals are nutritious and that meal programs are combined with educational enrichment activities.

“The Afterschool Meal Program can make a big difference for children in Ohio,” said Charlie Kozlesky of the Children’s Hunger Alliance.

“Many parents are struggling to hold on to jobs, working extra-long or nontraditional hours, commuting long distances, or trying to get back into the work force. They need care for their children in order to do that, so it absolutely makes sense to provide afterschool, weekend and summer programs to help parents provide healthy food for their children,” Kozlesky said.

The goal of the Children’s Hunger Alliance and its partners is to increase the number of schools and organizations that participate in the Afterschool Meal Program so that more children in Ohio can participate fully in after-school activities while also receiving the nutrition they need and may not have access to outside of school.

“The benefits of after-school meal programs are boundless,” said Crystal FitzSimons of the Food Research and Action Center.

“Access to after-school meals improves students’ health, mental well-being and their ability to fully participate and learn in after-school activities. As a result, schools have higher overall achievement scores, and communities stay healthier,” FitzSimons said.

Nearly one in four children in Ohio live below the poverty line, and nearly 19 percent of Ohio families cannot always afford to buy enough food to put on the table.

The Ohio Child Nutrition Summit is hosted by the Children’s Hunger Alliance and the Food Research and Action Center in partnership with Molina Healthcare and is supported by the ConAgra Foods Foundation.

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