Jul 20

Recap: The Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition’s letter to Congress

In late June, the Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition sent a letter to the House and Senate Labor Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittees signed by 130 coalition members calling on the Subcommittee leadership to maintain or increase federal funding that promotes healthy childhood weight through support of before and after school, and summer learning programs focused on healthy eating and physical activity.

The letter highlighted the contradiction of the Trump administration’s claim that their FY2018 budget proposal would “prioritize the security and well-being of Americans” while simultaneously substantially decreasing or eliminating federal funding for out-of-school time programs that promote the health of our nation’s children.

Who signed the letter?

National, state and local signatories of the letter include youth-serving organizations, education groups, and organizations focused on nutrition, fitness, and hunger. The letter was organized by the HOST Coalition Policy Working Group co-chairs, the Afterschool Alliance and the YMCA of the USA, and was signed by a range of groups including the After-School All-Stars, Boys & Girls Club of America, Girls Inc, American Federation of Teachers, Girls on the Run, and more.

What was in the letter?

The letter supported federal funding and policies that encourage widespread adoption of guidelines, standards, and funding for staff training and equipment that help afterschool programs effectively promote a healthy childhood for all students. The maintenance of these federal funding programs provides states the opportunity to designate funds to out-of-school time (OST) providers for the implementation of the National Afterschool Association’s Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards. Here are the grants the letter specifically advocated for:

  • The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC). Currently, the 21st CCLC supports accessible afterschool and summer learning programs that include healthy meals, physical activity, and nutrition education for approximately 2 million school-age children. Additionally, the 21st CCLC serve children most at risk for being overweight, including children of color and those from lower socio-economic status families.
  • The Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Within the Department of Health and Human Services, the CCDBG provides low-income families with school-age children a voucher to cover childcare services and mandates the health, safety, and wellness standards for all programs.
  • The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) & the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The CACFP and SFSP are both within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and are crucial to ensuring low-income children are provided with nutritious meals during afterschool programs and the summer months. Due to these programs, more than 340 million healthy afterschool meals are provided to our most vulnerable communities where food insecurity is prevalent. The Department of Agriculture Budget’s effort to “streamline, reduce, or eliminate duplicative, redundant, or lower priority programs where the Federal role competes with the private sector or other levels of government” underestimates the apparent success and need of CACFP and SFSP.
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The School Health Branch in the Division of Population Health currently receives funding related to school health and obesity prevention from the CDC. This funding supports professional development and training that enables afterschool staff to understand children’s needs and promote healthy eating and active lifestyles, providing preventative health services to young people in afterschool programs.

What’s next?

The appropriations process in Congress in just getting started. Wednesday, the FY2018 House Labor, Health and Human Services spending bill passed the House Appropriations Committee and included a more than $191,000,000 cut to 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Whereas this is an improvement from the Administration’s original budget proposal to eliminate the program, the fight is not over. Now is the time to get in touch with your representative to ensure that 1.6 million of our nation’s children do not lose access to healthy out of school time programs.

Lights on Afterschool is a nationwide event that celebrates afterschool programs and their important role in the lives of children, families and communities. This year, health and wellness is highlighted as one of the top event themes and ideas. Send a powerful message to Congress and the Administration by participating in this nationwide rally for access to healthy afterschool time!