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What You Need to Know About Supper in Schools

Offering students a meal before they head home at the end of the day can mean the difference between nourishment and hunger.

Whether you call it supper, dinner, or something completely different, an end-of-day meal is an important step to make sure students aren't going to be hungry, and more and more school districts across the nation are embracing this idea.

From California to Connecticut, more and more districts are working to help free or reduced lunch students enjoy the benefits of three square meals a day, and programs are having an impact.

"There is a need," said Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Elk Grove, CA, Michelle Drake, in a 2012 article. "There are hungry families and hungry children. Just because they get breakfast and lunch doesn't mean they get dinner [at home]. This program helps the child get a nutritious meal rather than Top Ramen or something."

Afterschool supper programs came into existence mainly after the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which led to a myriad of supper programs just a few short years later. In October of 2016, nearly 1.1 million children received an afterschool supper, and average daily participation grew from about 200,000 just five years earlier.

According to the "2018 Afterschool Nutrition Report" from the Food Research & Action Center, many schools and districts are missing out on opportunities, though. Thousands of afterschool programs located in low-income communities provide food during after school hours, yet many that are eligible to serve supper are only serving snack.

What can be done to involve more districts?

For starters, districts in areas with more than 50 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals should absolutely consider serving school suppers, as well. Providing meals and snacks through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) are available in these areas.

Citing the report, state agencies and advocates should conduct outreach to eligible schools, identify barriers to participation, and assist schools in overcoming them. The free and reduced lunch ratio is certainly one of the obstacles, but even schools not meeting the 50 percent requirement can still find funding.

There are other barriers to serving school suppers, and some of them include issues with foodservice equipment and supplies.

Lakeside is happy to offer a free school nutrition assessment to districts looking to provide school supper programs for students. We have some ideas that have worked in the past and may be able to help your district in the future.

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A Close Look at the School Nutrition Association’s Legislative Action Conference

A Close Look at the School Nutrition Association's Legislative Action Conference

SNA’s 47th LAC – Proud to Support the Issues, the Passion, the March

Lakeside and Multiteria have learned so much over the years in supporting the School Nutrition Association.  Our commitment may have begun by doing the right thing in supporting the association we market to, but now understanding the bigger picture, we take great pride to be part of the Legislative Action Conference (LAC) and the efforts to advocate for improvement of the national policy that supports and shapes the future of child nutrition.

The LAC is centered on the nutritional and educational welfare of our nation's K-12 students, and their message is to educate Capitol Hill using an abundance of energy and passion from a group of participants who have dedicated their lives to our schools and our students. There’s no mistaking the energy and preparation for what amounts to, in many cases, just a brief five- to 10-minute conversation with a congressional aide, or if they're lucky, an actual Senator or Representative.

The LAC is a creative and progressive conference that starts by discussing current issues before transitioning to topics of leadership, communication and how to handle oneself on Capitol Hill. Initial sessions begin with a series of meetings that highlight critical issues within the industry.

Consider a presentation titled To Procure or Not to Procure, which focused on requirements and best practices. The procurement process is complex and challenged with budgetary and resource constraints – undoubtedly a tough job.

Or consider another breakout, This Is What Is Keeping Us Awake at Night, which really cut to the center of setting priorities. Topics included how to continually increase food quality given timing and budget constraints, how to improve training with a changing workforce, and one that stood out, how to ensure that foodservice is an educational experience.

As noted by several attendees in conversation, a school’s foodservice program is the only one that touches the entire student population.  This is something that cannot be said for each teacher or coach, yet it's an underlying passion for many foodservice directors. Several topics raised in this session were consistent with SNA’s 2019 Position Paper.

But what made the session unique was its conversational tone between a spectrum of stakeholders – across the industry – who held a shared goal to improve student nutrition and wellbeing.

The last day included the main event which was to charge The Hill! Representing Wisconsin, the Lakeside Team prioritized and discussed key issues from the 2019 Position Paper to highlight in a 10-minute presentation on behalf of our home state. Based on constituency, we divided appointment times among our team and shared lessons learned from years past such as which members traditionally support school nutrition needs, how to approach them, etc.

The number one issue we pressed was funding for School Breakfast Programs (SBP) which has been an emerging trend across K-12 schools. Past research from the Food Research and Action Center shows better nourishment leads to increased class participation and learning retention.

For 2019, the House Appropriations Committee passed a one-time $20 million appropriation for school breakfast; however, this investment deserves a more permanent solution. As noted by the industry trade publication, Foodservice Director, currently 14.6 million students participate in a school breakfast program with over 85% of those students coming from low-income families.

LAC has taught us much.  Not only have we learned the importance of driving a unified message when lobbying our state representatives to create impactful legislation, but we’ve also learned of the never-ending passion displayed each year by school foodservice professionals who go above and beyond their commitment to nourish our nation’s children. Lakeside and Multiteria thank you and commend you on all levels!