Lower Eastside Girls Club

CACFP Success Story
Lower Eastside Girls Club | New York, New York

At Lower Eastside Girls Club, healthy meals and snacks are an integral part of afterschool enrichment programming. Development Associate Lauren Dapena notes, “When [the girls] come here after school, they are usually ravenous.” CACFP enables the program to address the kids’ nutritional needs so they are ready to focus and engage.

A typical Girls Club afterschool supper consists of a healthy plant-based meal, milk, and fruit and nuts for dessert. Staff prepare all meals and snacks on site, sourcing ingredients daily from local supermarkets and, seasonally, from their rooftop garden. Dapena explains, “The girls are involved in this process; they help plant and learn how to care for the garden. It is a fantastic hands-on experience that gets them more interested in exploring different foods.” Every Tuesday, the Girls Club offers a family-style meal where students and staff gather together for dinner. Dapena says, “We have special paper menus that include the food they are eating that day, interesting nutrition trivia, and fun questions for them to ask each other. […] Here they learn that meals are a time to both enjoy delicious food and connect with other people. We also have a nurse give a presentation on nutrition so the girls learn how food relates to their health and wellbeing.”

Girls Club members have responded positively to the healthy meals and snacks. Culinary Instructor Nancy Rosario says, “The girls are actually trying the stuff!” According to Rosario, though instilling healthy habits may be a slow and steady process, they have seen positive outcomes. “It has been difficult for us to compete with local bodegas and street vendors that sell food filled with fat, salt, and sugar; [however], we are well aware that these changes are gradual. We have seen girls completely revamp their diet after being here, especially as they got older.” Rosario notes that some Girls Club members may not have access to enough nutritious food at home; she says, “For some, this is their dinner and the only time they eat healthy.”

Rosario encourages other afterschool programs to enroll in CACFP. “It gives you a chance to expand your options for the kids. […] The whole point of what we do is what CACFP does: teaching kids how to eat well.”

To learn more about serving afterschool meals through CACFP, visit AfterschoolMealsNY.org.