Childhood hunger reaches into every corner of our state. While many children are able to access nutritious meals through free and reduced lunch programs during the school day, they often go hungry after school and in the summer when fewer meals programs are available.

Afterschool and summer programs that provide meals keep youth learning, nourished and safe—which leads to healthier development and greater academic success.
Research shows that access to nutritious food is key to a child’s physical development and ability to learn. They learn better and retain more information when they aren’t focused on where their next meal will come from. We also know that working families often struggle during the summer, paying an average of $300 more a month for food, and their children—who rely on free and reduced price school lunches during the school year—may go without nutritious meals.

Stand-alone meal sites without an activity or program are less likely to attract children and youth. By offering high-quality programming and enrichment activities at the same time as meals, providers are able to combat hunger while engaging young people in learning and recreation opportunities.

Expanded learning programs, including child care, can apply to be meal sites through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACP) for afterschool meals and snacks as well as the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) for summer meals and snacks. Check out the Washington State Office of Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI) Community Nutrition webpage to find more information on CACFP and SFSP. 

Do you operate a summer learning and meals site in rural Central or Eastern Washington? Learn more about SOWA’s work with Feed Your Brain, a program focused on summer learning loss and summertime hunger.


Contact our Strategy & Partnerships Director, Fahren Johnson, at