Tips for After School Healthy Habits

Remember to encourage healthy habits to help avoid the spread of germs.

Lysol Sanitizer

Students are officially back to school, and so is increased exposure to viruses and bacteria. Try refreshing your sanitizing and disinfecting routine at home and practicing healthy habits with your kids. Here are a few tips that can help your family avoid the spread of illness-causing viruses and bacteria: 

Utilize Lysol Air Sanitizer  

Introducing Lysol Air Sanitizer, the first antimicrobial product approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to effectively kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria1 and eliminate odors2 in the air when used correctly. Traditional air fresheners only freshen the air, and traditional disinfectant sprays kill viruses and bacteria on surfaces, but Lysol Air Sanitizer is a first-of-its-kind product in the air-care category that is proven to sanitize the air.  

Boost Immunity With Nutrition 

Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins and dairy can give your child’s immune system the strength it needs to ward off potential illnesses.3 When your children are enjoying their after-school snack or family dinner, remember to reflect all of these food groups in their meals and remind your child the importance of making healthy choices. 

Reinforce Regular Handwashing  

When your child comes home from a long day of fun and learning at school, it’s important to remind them that germs and bacteria can live on the surfaces that they touch frequently like doorknobs, tables, chairs, toys, etc. Encourage them to wash their hands regularly using soap and water and make sure they are washing for at least 20 seconds.4 

As the school year unfolds and your child immerses themselves in learning, friendships and experiences, remember that a healthy body supports a healthy mind. These tips can help your family have a protected and happy school year ahead! 

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service. No endorsement of Lysol is implied. 

Plan Ahead for a Healthy School Year

ids running into school

Our kids are returning to school, but germs don’t have to. We’ve all learned just how important in-person learning is to our children’s academic and social development. Maximizing in-school time requires protecting our kids from the spread of the flu and other illnesses caused by germs. Local PTAs can play a role in cultivating healthy habits that make a big difference.  

We’re Here for Healthy Schools

Since 2012, National PTA has partnered with Lysol to help reduce student absences due to illness by cultivating habits that help to reduce the spread of germs. Our collaboration expanded in 2019 when Lysol launched its Here for Healthy Schools initiative and took on even more urgent importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. This fall, we’re continuing the effort. 

Our partners at Lysol have developed free resources—including lesson plans, activities, posters and stickers—that educators and PTAs can use to help instill germ-curbing habits in a way kids find memorable and fun. This back-to-school season, Lysol is reintroducing a favorite: the Welcome Back Pack. Refreshed for the 2023-2024 school year, these physical and digital resource packs provide engaging materials to reinforce healthy habits with students. 

School nurse Holly Giovi of Deer Park, N.Y., says, “This initiative equips educators with an arsenal to impart lasting habits and reinforce a culture of health-consciousness. By empowering students to embrace proper hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and regular sanitization, we expand their defenses against infectious illnesses and promote a more conducive atmosphere for learning.” 

Find out what your local school is doing to reduce the spread of germs. Not every school has a full-time nurse to lead the charge, so you can help by sharing free resources that make healthy habits easy for kids to remember. 

Stocking Healthy Classrooms

PTAs often take the lead in ordering essential supplies for classrooms. This fall, here are a few important items to put on your list. 

  1. Hand sanitizer and hand soap – Students should wash their hands several times per day to reduce the spread of germs. Hand soap is a must for classrooms with sinks, while hand sanitizer can get the job done in any setting. We recommend ordering both in bulk! 
  2. Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol® Disinfectant Spray – Disinfecting wipes and sprays are essential for killing germs on high-touch classroom surfaces like desks, toys, doorknobs and light switches. Don’t forget the lunchroom! Cafeteria staff will appreciate your support stocking up too.
  3. Sandwich bags – A handy trick to keep small hands out of shared supplies: Sandwich bags! Educators can use them to prepack and distribute individual portions of snacks, manipulatives or craft supplies to kids. 

Check out our advice on how to simplify and save on school supply orders.  

Lysol is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA. This article contains sponsored content from third parties. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service. 

Thoughtful. Affirming. Trustworthy. Are You a Youth Champion? 

Role model and mentor spending time with a teenager young man.

A Growing Need for Youth Champions

Driven by data that underscores rising rates of mental health stress and illness among youth and young adults, the youth mental health advocacy organization known as Active Minds is harnessing the power of one of the most significant determining factors in youth mental health and wellness: the power of thoughtful, affirming and trustworthy adults. Youth with even one safe and responsive adult in their lives report significantly fewer mental health-related concerns. Data finds those meaningful connections to supportive adults—known at Active Minds as Youth Champions—are critical for positive youth development and is named as a key protective factor in helping to decrease depression and suicide ideation/thoughts. 

What Exactly is a Youth Champion? 

Youth Champions are parents, caregivers, K-12 educators/faculty/staff, and PTA leaders who have or are learning to acquire the skills and abilities to advocate with youth for their positive health and wellness outcomes. A Youth Champion is dedicated to encouraging healthy social, emotional and academic growth for the young people in their care. Core values of Youth Champions include showing unconditional positive regard, celebrating youth culture, uplifting guiding behavior from a positive youth development framework and facilitating relationships based in anti-racist practices. 

A Coordinated Response: Youth Champion Connections 

Youth Champion Connections are workshops developed by a team of human development and public and mental health professionals committed to providing content and inspiring conversations to deconstruct adult-centered youth development frameworks found in many spaces of youth learning and recreation. As adult-centered youth development is historically rooted in an imbalance of power between adults and youth, Active Minds’ workshops are designed to move away from adult-centered frameworks that have been found to discourage candid conversations; stifle critical thinking and curiosity; and inspire distrust and feelings of emotional insecurity among youth.  

Youth Champion Connections workshops are built with parents, caregivers, K-12 educators and staff, PTA leaders and youth development professionals in mind. Because of the deep impact of this role, Active Minds believes it is critically important that Youth Champions be offered supportive learning spaces dedicated to their personal and professional development, including content focused on their own mental health and well-being. Workshops will increase Youth Champions’ mental health literacy and advocacy skills and introduce positive youth development strategies that encourage healthy adult-youth relationships. 

Becoming a Youth Champion

Active Minds believes that to create safe spaces that inspire youth to learn and be emotionally vulnerable, the adults charged with their care and development deserve opportunities to practice thoughtful, affirming and trustworthy youth engagement. Youth Champions will learn new ways of thinking and being during workshops that will benefit them personally and professionally.  

Active Minds Youth Champion Connections will:  

  1. Highlight strategies for youth engagement that spark feelings of emotional safety for youth of all lived experiences and identities.  
  2. Discuss and demonstrate methods that encourage the growth of youth social and emotional skills.
  3.  Increase Youth Champions’ mental health literacy and ability to support youth well-being.
  4. Build Youth Champions’ mental health advocacy skills to create an active and equitable response to mental health from school and out-of-school-time staff that centers and amplifies the voices and needs of youth and staff. 

Want to attend one or all of Active Minds’ Youth Champion Connections? Submit an inquiry form to keep up with our workshop development and content offerings!  

How Parents Can Support Teachers for their Child’s Back-to-School Success

Kids with family

As parents, you know how much of a team effort it is to raise a child–that includes partnership between educators in school and family at home. Back-to-school season is quickly approaching, which means it’s already time to start thinking about the year ahead. Here are some tips to help support your child’s education this year.

Encourage Teachers to Utilize Available Resources

There are many resources out there for teachers to utilize, like the “Clear the Wish List Giveaway” presented by WeAreTeachers and Lysol. This is an exciting opportunity for teachers to clear their Amazon wish lists (up to $200). To enter and for full terms & conditions, educators should visit WeAreTeachers and make sure they have at least one Lysol product included on their Amazon list and submit the link. There are 200 chances to win between now and September!

Support Homework and Learning

Create an environment conducive for homework and learning at home during the start of the school year. Establish a designated study area, set a consistent routine, and encourage your child to complete assignments on time. By emphasizing the value of education at home, you reinforce the teachers’ efforts in the classroom.

Stay Engaged in Your Child’s Education

Maintain active involvement in your child’s education by attending school events, PTA meetings, and workshops. Stay informed about curriculum updates, school policies, and upcoming projects. Your engagement demonstrates your commitment to your child’s learning and helps strengthen the overall educational experience.

Parents and teachers have the same goal–to see their children and students thrive. By working together, you can provide comprehensive support that extends beyond the confines of the classroom, empowering students to reach their full potential.

Help Protect Your Child Against Meningococcal Disease

When we think of adolescence and young adulthood, we often think of exciting milestones and big moments. From prom, sporting events, college acceptances and more, it’s a period marked by change and anticipation for thrilling new chapters.

But we know it can sometimes be challenging to keep up with things like routine doctor’s appointments and which vaccinations our children need to help protect them against vaccine-preventable diseases as they continue to grow.

Meningococcal disease, an uncommon but potentially fatal illness is one of those vaccine-preventable diseases that makes it vitally important to stay up to date with your child’s CDC-recommended vaccination scheduleespecially as they continue to age, as teens and young adults are at an increased risk for contracting meningococcal disease through common sharing behaviors.

As your child continues to grow and experience life’s exciting milestones, keep the following tips and information in mind to help keep them healthy and protected against meningococcal disease:

Meningococcal DiseaseWhat is it?

Meningococcal disease is any illness caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, which can cause severe and deadly bacterial infections, such as meningococcal meningitisa bacterial infection that attacks the brain and spinal cord.

Common symptoms of meningococcal disease can include nausea, fever, stiff neck and a rash that looks like purple spots, among others. Early symptoms may seem like the flu but can progress quickly and can lead to death within 24 hours.

Teens and Young Adults

Meningococcal disease is contracted through respiratory droplets, leaving teens and young adults at an increased risk for contracting and spreading the disease simply by engaging in common behaviors like dorm- living, kissing, and sharing beverages.

It’s important to remember that the effects of meningococcal disease can be severe and deadly, so it’s essential that your child be seen by a healthcare provider right away if they’re experiencing symptoms.

Vaccinations Can Help Keep Your Child Healthy

Current meningococcal vaccines in the United States offer protection against all five of the most common groups of bacteria causing disease, but your child may need more than one vaccination to help keep them protected.

Help protect your child today

For more information about meningococcal disease and the vaccinations available to help protect your child, speak to a trusted healthcare provider, and read more on the CDC website.

This piece was developed with support from Pfizer.

Healthy Habits for Spring Break

Use these tips to have a worry-free, healthy vacation.

Mom applying sunscreen to child

Spring break is just around the corner, and many families are getting ready to go on vacation. While this is an exciting time for kids and parents alike, it’s important to make sure that everyone continues to practice healthy habits while enjoying their time off. Here are some healthy spring break habits for parents taking their kids on vacation:

  • Disinfect High Touch Surfaces: Regardless of where your spring break takes you, help protect your loved ones and reduce the spread of illness-causing germs by disinfecting surfaces while traveling. Lysol Disinfecting Wipes To-Go Packs are great for all your travel needs – they’re designed to clean and disinfect surfaces on-the-go while killing 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. Throw them in your bag, use them on planes, or anywhere else you might want some extra cleanliness while you travel.
  • Stay Hydrated: Traveling can be exhausting and dehydrating, especially if you’re spending time in the sun. Encourage everyone to drink plenty of water throughout the day, and avoid sugary drinks that can lead to dehydration.1
  • Beat the Heat: If you’re vacationing somewhere warm or spending a lot of time outside, make sure your child is fully protected from the sun by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a factor of SPF 30 or higher to all exposed areas of skin. Apply 15 to 30 minutes before heading outside and make sure to reapply every 2 hours or after swimming.2
  • Handwashing: Washing your hands is a simple and effective way to help prevent the spread of germs. Encourage your children to wash their hands frequently, especially after eating, playing outside, blowing their nose, and coughing or sneezing. As always, make sure your child is using soap and water and washing for at least 20 seconds.3

As everyone returns to school after break, remind your kids to carry these habits back into the classroom for the reminder of the school year. For more resources, visit

1 “Heat Stress: Hydration.” “How to Apply Sunscreen.” “Handwashing: Clean Hands Saves Lives.

5 Tips to Help Kids Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Child eating lunch
Kindergarten children eating lunch outdoors smiling to camera

As a nutritional epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I know that healthy eating in childhood and adolescence is important for optimal growth and brain development. A healthy diet can reduce the risk of serious health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure that can start in childhood. Fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy diet. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables every day.

However, as a mother of two young children, I also know that it is not always easy to get children to eat fruits and vegetables. Many children are not eating enough. In fact, many children as young as 1–5 years of age are not eating fruits and vegetables every day, according to a new CDC analysis. Here are five tips to help you get more fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet:

  1. Choose fresh, frozen, or canned. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can be just as healthy as fresh options. Look for frozen vegetables without added sauces, or choose fruits canned in 100% fruit juice and vegetables with “low sodium” or “no salt added” on the label. Frozen and canned options are longer lasting, may save you money, and can be a quick way to add fruits and vegetables to your kids’ meals. For example, you can add frozen berries to plain yogurt or add canned vegetables to a soup.
  2. Keep the kids involved. Studies show that involving children in meal prep is a good way to develop healthy eating habits. Here are some ways to involve younger and older children in meal prep:
    • For younger kids–start simple with something like a yogurt parfait or a healthy snack. Kids can find and place items in the grocery cart. They can also help with measuring, placing items in a bowl or serving dish, or mixing.
    • For older children–they can look up and choose recipes, make shopping lists, and even help keep track of ingredients in the store or online. They can help with cutting, chopping, peeling, or cooking on the stove. Remember that some skills may require supervision. For a free, simple way to get started, check out these kid-friendly Look and Cook Recipes from USDA’s MyPlate.
  3. Plan and pack ahead. It’s no secret that parents are busy, and it feels like our kids are always on the go! One quick and easy way to help your children eat more fruits and vegetables is to have pre-cut fruits and vegetables available in easy grab-and-go containers. You can even designate an easy-to-reach kid’s shelf where they know to go for these healthy snacks.
  4. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. It’s normal for your child to refuse some foods at first, but repetition is the key.  Especially when it comes to vegetables. The more kids are exposed to familiar and unfamiliar options, the more likely they are to eat them. In fact, experts believe it can take more than 10 tries before kids get used to a new taste. Exposure can start with looking, touching, smelling, or reading about new fruits and vegetables.
  5. Bring healthy snacks to share at school parties and events. Children can consume up to half of their daily calories at school. This includes class birthdays, holiday parties, and special events. Snacks are also often provided at after-school and extracurricular activities. When it’s your turn to bring a snack, think about skipping the sweet treats. Instead, choose healthy, easy, and tasty options. Instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, try 100% fruit juice, low sodium vegetable juice, or water. Instead of sweets and baked goods, try yogurt parfaits with fresh fruit, raw vegetables such as carrot sticks with a low fat dip, fresh fruit served in cupcake wrappers, and fruit kabobs.

For more information and resources about healthy eating habits for children at every age, please visit the Life Stages page at

Dr. Adi Noiman is a nutrition epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a mother of two young children.

4 Seasonal Illness Resources for Parents

We know every parent goes into protect mode when illness enters their home, especially during the cold winter months. Lysol and National PTA are here to help prevent illness-causing germs from spreading any further, so students can remain in school as much as possible. To help set both your family and broader school community up for success, here are some resources you can use at home and encourage at school:

CDC’s Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT)

Encourage schools to take a pulse on their health education curriculum is by using HECAT, an assessment tool developed by the CDC. The tool will both help decision makers align on the curriculum, as well as how best to implement it in a way that is feasible for all involved.

Lysol HERE for Healthy Schools

There is no better time to institute or refresh your school’s healthy habits curriculum than during peak illness periods. Lysol is proud to provide free healthy habits resources and lesson plans that can be utilized both at home and in school. Materials range from lesson plans on how germs are transmitted in the classroom to fun activities reminding students best practices for handwashing. Visit to download your resources today.

Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child

School health sectors, parents, and communities all have similar goals to improve childhood development. To help guide parents, teachers and students alike, utilize the CDC’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model to address health in schools. The school environment, educational structure and engagement from families all play a key role in helping to curb the spread of illness-causing germs, especially throughout cold & flu season.

Use Lysol Disinfecting Products

Disinfecting commonly touched surfaces helps to reduce the spread of germs, including those that may cause cold and flu. Lysol Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol Disinfectant Spray kill 99.9% of illness-causing germs on many of the surfaces we touch. Visit to learn more about to how to properly use the products to maximize their impact in helping you protect your home and school communities from illness-causing germs.

Wishing you a happy and healthy remainder of the school year!

Firearm Violence and ACEs: Prevention Is Possible

Girl holding sign in protest to end gun violence

Far too many people die or are injured by firearm violence and suicide. Far too many loved ones receive a phone call or a text that changes their lives forever. But their days started out like any other–adults getting ready for work and students heading to school–and in an instant, turned to tragedy. 

Trends in Violence and Disparities

  • In 2021, there were 47,286 firearm homicides and suicides in the United States – that is an average of nearly 130 deaths every day – and the numbers have been increasing. There were 6,544 more firearm homicides and 2,387 more firearm suicides in 2021 than just two years earlier in 2019.
  • Some groups have higher rates than others. Firearm homicide rates are highest among teens and young adults and among Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Hispanic or Latino populations. Firearm suicide rates are highest among older adults and among American Indian or Alaska Native and non-Hispanic White populations.
  • While the reasons for increasing rates and disparities are complex, several explanations have been proposed. Racism and longstanding inequities (e.g., in economic, educational, housing, and employment opportunities) contribute to disparities. Many social and economic stressors worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly within some racial and ethnic communities.

Impacts on Youth and Schools

Violence has far-reaching impacts on youth and the school environment. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are preventable, potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. These include experiencing or witnessing violence in the home. They also include aspects of a child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding. Experiencing ACEs can have physical, behavioral, and mental health effects in both the short-term and long-term for youth and their families.

A recent report on ACEs found:

  • Nearly 3 out of 4 students experienced at least one recent ACE during the pandemic, such as emotional abuse or food insecurity.
  • Students who experienced more ACEs during the pandemic were more likely to report poor mental health and to have attempted suicide in the past year than those who experienced no recent ACEs.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Violence, firearm injuries and deaths, and ACEs are preventable. A comprehensive approach to preventing violence in communities is key, and school communities – parents, teachers, staff, and administrators – have an important role to play in prevention.

Role of School and Community Leaders in Prevention

CDC has released a range of prevention resources, including resources to help enhance school connectedness and prevent youth violence, community violence, ACEs, and suicide. These resources summarize the best available evidence for prevention. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also has resources for families addressing childhood adversity and teen suicide prevention.

Here are 4 examples of strategies and programs that are specific to schools:

  • Child Parent Centers and Early Head Start. These programs create opportunities to support parents and engage them in their child’s academic development.
  • Middle– and high school–based programs. Programs that are implemented in classrooms can enhance communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, empathy, and impulse control. They have shown substantial benefits, including reductions in violence.
  • After-school programs. After-school programs address key risk and protective factors for youth violence. They help to provide supervision during critical times of the day when youth crime and violence peak. These programs also provide tutoring and homework assistance, formal skill-based programming, and structured learning activities to promote future success.
  • Safe routes home from school. Programs providing students safe routes to and from school place highly visible community members along these routes to monitor and assist with students’ safe travel.

These are just a few examples. Many incidents of violence in school start outside of school, and a comprehensive approach in communities is important to enhance safety inside and outside of school.

While it is not reasonable to expect schools to solve the violence problem on their own, schools are an important part of the solution to violence. Parents, teachers and the school community can take action to prevent firearm violence and ACEs.

By Dr. Thomas Simon, Senior Director for Scientific Program, Division of Violence Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  

Dr. Lois Lee, Chair of the Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics

Dr. Simon and Dr. Lee joined National PTA President Anna King for a conversation on what parents need to know about ACEs, the impact of gun violence on school communities, and preventative actions school and community leaders can take to provide a safe and welcoming school environment for all children. Watch the recording at

New Generations United Report Highlights Grandfamilies’ Struggles with Food Insecurity

Existing help for food insecure families tends to assume kids live with parents, not grandparents, and should be fixed to reflect reality. 

Hunger hurts. Just ask Alice Carter. When she got a call from the Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS) telling her that her daughter’s parental rights had been severed from her grandson, the department asked if Alice would take him. Without hesitating, she stepped up to raise him and later her granddaughter, too. Her decision was transformative and kept her grandchildren out of foster care. 

At the time, Alice was a welder, a job that paid good money but required her to travel to work sites. Raising her grandchildren meant she had to quit her job because she couldn’t find reliable care for them while she was away at job locations. Alice lost her home because she couldn’t pay rent, and for more than a year, they lived in her car and struggled to find food. 

“I tried to appear at friends’ houses around dinner time so they would include my grandchildren. Sometimes people would give us food that had been in their refrigerator for two weeks, but it was better than nothing. Someone gave us a bag of oranges and we ate nothing but oranges for four days,” Alice says.

Sadly, Alice’s story is not unique. Generations United’s new report sheds light on families like Alice’s. It examines why grandfamilies, families in which children are raised by relatives or family friends without their parents in the home, often face high rates of hunger and food insecurity and recommends ways our policies can better support them. 

The findings are startling. Generations United’s 2022 State of Grandfamilies report found that between 2019 and 2020, 25% of grandparent-headed households with grandchildren and no parent present experienced food insecurity. This is more than twice the national rate. It’s also 60% higherthan that of all households with children (25% vs. 15%). Yet at the same time, in 2019 less than half of low-income grandfamilies accessed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as SNAP.

In the report, grandfamily caregivers share personal experiences and struggles with feeding their families. The impact is severe and can harm the health, nutrition and economic security of children and adults.

“You know, if you only have $10 to spend, you really can’t afford to go out and buy stuff for a healthy salad. You can buy beans and rice and chicken nuggets,” says Kathy Coleman, a grandfamily caregiver and director of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Resource Center of Louisiana.

“It would be a whole lot cheaper, but it’s not really beneficial to the children. But when you’re in that situation, where all you’re trying to do is feed these little babies’ hungry tummies, you do whatever you can to stretch your money and, to be quite honest, sometimes it’s not the most nutritional food.”

Factors Putting Grandfamilies at Risk

Grandfamilies are at increased risk of food insecurity due to factors such as poverty, racial discrimination, disability, marriage status, employment status, geography and accessibility. 

More than half (54%) of grandparent-headed households live in the South—states that tend to have food insecurity rates above the national average. Moreover, a large number of grandparent-headed households live in rural areas and are likely to experience food insecurity at a higher rate, in part because food sources often are further away from home and transportation options are sparse.

Due to cultural values and proud traditions, grandfamilies are disproportionately African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, and, in some areas, Latino. Yet, years of systemic racism and discrimination have led to disproportionate rates of food insecurity, as well as difficulties accessing support systems and inequitable supports for grandfamily caregivers and the children they raise. Additionally, 31% of grandchildren being raised by their grandparents in a grandparent-headed household are living below the poverty level, compared to 16% of all children nationwide.

Grandfamilies Face Greater Barriers Accessing Federal Nutrition Programs 

Federal food and nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and free and reduced-price school meals serve as a lifeline for millions of families struggling with hunger and food insecurity, but many grandfamilies face unique challenges when trying to access these services.

Grandfamily caregiver Linda Lewis from Oklahoma lives off her Social Security benefit and receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). 

“It’s tight,” she says. “I have to buy school uniforms and shoes out of that, too. We get SNAP, but the benefit amount is low and that doesn’t go nowhere.”

Linda finds herself visiting food pantries once a month for additional support, along with receiving meals from Meals on Wheels, which she says is helpful. 

Children living with an unlicensed kinship foster care parent are not automatically eligible for WIC benefits, though they may be automatically eligible through other avenues. If a child has been receiving support from WIC while living with a parent, when a grandparent caregiver takes over raising the child, WIC benefits are not always easily transferred or given to the caregiver or child.

Though SNAP is beneficial for grandfamilies, the application process can be difficult to navigate. Eligibility is based on household income, with no option to base it on the income of the child only. Many grandfamilies have household incomes slightly too high to qualify or they have assets they’ve saved for retirement. 

“When you’re a grandparent or caregiver raising children who are not your own, you don’t always meet the low-income eligibility in their state to qualify for SNAP,” says Kathy. “And in doing so, it hinders you from having the ability to have the nutritious food that you want and enough food to feed the family.”

Policy Recommendations to Support Grandfamilies

We can and must take steps toward providing grandfamilies with access to these proven, cost-effective programs they need to increase their family’s food security. These include:

  • Create a “child-only” SNAP benefit that does not consider household income in making eligibility determinations and, instead, is based upon the income of the child only. Children shouldn’t be penalized because their grandparents built up assets for retirement.
  • Support the development and use of kinship navigator programs that provide information, referral and follow-up services to grandparents and other relatives raising children to link them to the benefits and supports that they and/or the children need. These programs work and should exist in every state.
  • Ensure automatic access to free and reduced-price school meals for children living in grandfamilies and help grandfamilies cover meal costs when school is out to help fill the meal gap during the summer when millions of children lose access to school meals.*
  • Creating joint meal programs for grandfamily caregivers and the children they raise. It was startling to learn during the pandemic that programs could deliver meals to older adults but not to the children living with them, and that programs could feed children but not the grandparents raising them who were standing beside them.

When children can’t be raised by their parents, they fare better with their grandparents than do children raised by nonrelatives in foster care. They have better mental health and behavioral health outcomes, higher levels of stability and a greater sense of belonging. They say they feel loved.  

As a nation, we must ensure that no grandfamily experiences hunger and food insecurity. Grandfamilies like Alice Carter’s must no longer feel isolated and alone as they step up to raise a relative’s or a friend’s children. Any grandfamily should know, immediately, where to go for help. And help should be easily accessible to them.

Learn more in Generations United’s 2022 State of Grandfamilies Report, Together at the Table: Improving the Nutrition, Health, and Well-Being of Grandfamilies.

Donna Butts is executive director of Generations United in Washington, DC.

*National PTA continues to champion free school meals for all children, particularly if they live in high poverty school districts through options such as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and allowing Medicaid direct certification to ensure automatic access to free school meals if a family already participates.

Related resources: Op-ed by National PTA President Anna King and Food Research & Action Center President Luis Guardia and National PTA letter to Senate Agriculture Committee on key child nutrition provisions to be included in the end-of-year appropriations package