After-School Snacks and Suppers

USDA provides after-school snacks to school children through either its National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

Through the NSLP, participating schools also can offer nutritious snacks as part of after-care educational programs or enrichment activities. Snacks are subsidized on a sliding scale, based on whether students qualify for free, reduced-price, or full-price lunches. Schools in which at least 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals are "area eligible" and subsidized at the free rate for all participating students.

Participation in the NSLP After-School Snack Program—authorized by Congress in 1998—is much smaller than lunch and breakfast program participation. The program provided an average of 1.2 million snacks daily in fiscal year (FY) 2019, with almost 200 million snacks served that year. Approximately 92 percent of snacks were served in high-need area eligible schools.

ERS examined the school and district-level characteristics associated with offering the NSLP After-School Snack Program using USDA’s School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study IV, conducted from January to June in 2010. Schools with a higher share of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches were more likely than other schools to offer the program. Those in high-poverty districts, urban areas, and elementary schools were more likely to offer the program, whereas high schools were less likely to offer it. See "USDA's After-School Snack Program More Common in Elementary Schools in Poor Urban Areas." 

Through USDA's Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), after-school snacks can be served by third-party sponsors of community-based after-school enrichment programs in those areas, where at least 50 percent of the children are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Beginning in 2000, some State CACFP programs were given the option to offer after-school suppers through community programs in these at-risk areas. In December 2010, Congress extended this option to all States. Through this option, community programs may also serve breakfast or lunch on weekends, holidays, and school breaks, addressing gaps that may occur when at-risk children are not in school.