On Thursday I was required by my school district to attend a "snack training". The training had two purposes: the first was to sign up to receive after-school snacks at no charge to the students participating in our after-school program. The second was to learn about the federal regulations guiding this program (which is part of the National School Lunch Program) so that we don't inadvertently do anything to jeopardize our snack funding while administering the snacks.
Wow, I thought I knew all about the School Lunch Program, but I didn't know it included snacks! The students in our after-school program get free snacks at 3:30, as long as they participate in our activities. Fantastic! It turns out that each snack consists of two parts (i.e. cheese and crackers) to ensure a well-balanced refreshment. Even better.
But wait, if the students refuse to take both parts then they can't have a snack at all. All or nothing folks. And if you take both parts of the snack, you have to eat them both, or throw the leftovers away. Even if the packaging is in tact. No sharing. And definitely no saving. The biggest no-no of the After-school Snack Program is bringing your snack off campus, or home to share with your hungry siblings. Now, wait a minute, isn't this program designed to provide nutritious food to students who might not have access to snacks at home? What if they're not hungry at 3:30 because they had school lunch at 1? Well, the food service providers who ran the snack training tried mightily to explain that this is a food safety regulation to prevent cross-contamination (read: fear of H1N1) and reduce the school's liability. I suppose this makes sense. And I'm not trying to rail against the Feds because obviously it's no easy task to develop national food regulations for school programs. It just seems a bit rigid, and what happens to the snacks that don't get eaten? There definitely aren't snack seconds. Just a very large trash can in the middle of the room.
I am not writing to prematurely complain about a program designed to increase food access in impoverished communities (well, maybe a little), but rather to set the stage for what I'm sure will be a deluge of posts to come on after-school snacks. Because although I pop my head into the cafeteria at lunch time to say hello to my students, I will have a lot less contact with the lunch program. As the proud administer of the after-school snack program at my middle school, I'm sure that I will have plenty to say on the subject of snacks. What I'm most interested in, besides rules about distribution, is the quality and nutritional content of the snacks. Because if they are anything like the lunches, then we are in trouble.
On a positive note, our after-school program is lucky enough to participate in Kids Cafe. Thanks to the generosity of the Capital Area Food Bank, students receive free meals three days a week after participating in after-school programming. Their siblings and parents and friends can come too! The only caveat is that the children in our program eat first. Sounds incredibly reasonable. Teachers who stay late, and program staff can also help themselves, so that leftovers do not go to waste. I am obviously excited about this program, and cannot wait to write about it next week. Stay tuned ...