Safety, Health and Nutrition Resources





























Mental Wellness

Student and Staff Well-Being 

Education Week has curated a collection or articles covering benefits of investments in mental health services, best practices for COVID-19 prevention, how the Monkeypox outbreak may affect schools, research on setting regular bedtimes for students, data on staff’s job-related stress, effective strategies for reducing principal burnout, and more.

Back to School Mental Health Toolkit


Mental Health America has developed a Back-to-School Toolkit for program providors. The toolkit examines the issues impacting young peoples’ mental health and tips on how to help them navigate these issues. The toolkit is also available in Spanish. 

Creating a Positive Classroom Environment


eschool News outlined four strategies that can help create a positive classroom culture as the school year begins. In the wake of the isolation and trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health and behavioral challenges have increased as students continue to process unprecedented amounts of stress and anxiety. The four strategies center around creating a calming environment, offering opportunities for pause, allowing students to express how they feel, and doing a two word check in at the end of the day. 

BIPOC Mental Health Resources

Mental Health America developed a Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Toolkit. The toolkit has information and resources specifically for BIPOC communities, calls to action, worksheets, and general resources for BIPOC individuals. Click here to access the toolkit in English and here to access it in Spanish. 

Ways to Support Youth Mental Health

eSchool News published an article discussing three ways to support youth mental health. The first tool encourages administrators to use the peer model to encourage students to be advocates of mental health. The second tool involves finding alternative methods of communicating mental health campaigns, and encourages the use of social media as a resource. Finally, the last tool is offering students on-demand mental health services. 

Trauma-Informed Care White Paper

The Crisis Prevention Institute has written a white paper for out-of-school time (OST) professionals to use to support students and prevent crisis.

How to Engage Families in Social-Emotional Learning


EducationWeek and CASEL have shared six strategies for program providers to utilize when engaging families in social-emotional learning. The article emphasizes the benefits for families and students!

Chicago Students Speak Up in Support of Mental Health Days

Chalkbeat Chicago interviewed a few Chicago students to learn more about the thoughts on the a new law that allows students to take up to five excused mental health days. According to the article, “the law came at a critical time as youth are experiencing the mental effects of the pandemic and rising violence in Chicago, but there are indications that communication about the law has been inconsistent across schools.” Learn about what some students are doing to ensure they are able to access mental health support, leverage these days, and share information on their rights with their peers.

Mental Health Funding to Support Students

EducationWeek published an article on two historic investments in mental health supports for students across the United States. Both the U.S. Department of Education and President Joseph Biden have pushed for increased investment in wraparound services and secured $300 million for grants. Schools can access funding for mental health services through two new grants that aim to build a pipeline of support in schools.

Resources for Supporting the Wellbeing of OST Professionals

The Office of Child Care of the Administration for Children and Families has shared resources to support a culture of staff wellness:

Supporting and Promoting Mental Health in Out-of-School Time (OST)

The Afterschool Alliance released an article summarizing a recent brief written by the National Center on Afterschool and Summer Enrichment (NCASE) on supporting mental health needs in OST. The article outlines different tips and the implications of supporting youth and program providers.

New 988 Crisis Line

New 988 Crisis Line 


On July 15, 2022, Governor JB Pritzker announced “that the Illinois Department of Human
Services’ (IDHS) Division of Mental Health, in coordination with the federal Substance Abuse
and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is expanding Illinois’ mental health safety
net by rolling out 988, a new, nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis
line.” Now, individuals in crisis may dial 988 to access support services for youth and adults.


Afterschool Alliance Message to The Field On Supporting Grieving Youth

After the recent events in Texas and New York, Jodi Grant (Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance) has written a letter to communities across the nation and afterschool providers with resources for supporting grieving youth.

Trauma-Informed Resources for Schools and Afterschool Programs


Mental Health of Youth Is a Priority in State Legislatures

The Afterschool Alliance has written an article highlighting the importance of afterschool in supporting students’ mental well-being. The article also shares more information on how certain state governments are proposing legislation that protects and promotes mental health services for youth.

Chicago Public Schools Partners with Lady Gaga for Student Mental Wellness

Trigger Warning: This resource talks about self-harm and suicide prevention

Chalkbeat Chicago wrote an article detailing the partnership between Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Lady Gaga’s foundation to increase support services for student mental health. The school district saw high rates of anxiety, depression, self harm, and suicide during the pandemic and is allocating approximately $24,000 from federal COVID-19 relief funding to launch the Please Stay campaign. Students will be able to access peer-to-peer supports and professional services as well.

What to Know About Paid COVID-19 Sick-Leave for Illinois Educators

Chalkbeat Chicago recently wrote an article detailing seven things that Illinois staff may want to know about the recent law allowing school districts to grant paid leave for COVID-19-related reasons.

Mental Health and Social-Emotional Learning Resources

Mental Health Resources for Afterschool Providers

The National AfterSchool Association (NAA) has compiled 15 high-quality resources for supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing during afterschool experiences. NAA also has elevated a free toolkit that can be used to start a conversation about youths’ mental health.

Changing the Beat of Mental Health

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Communities United, and the Youth Leaders of the Ujima Project recently hosted an event to showcase a new report on mental health. In specific, panel discussion (led by young men of color) highlighted that, for their peers, the normalization of trauma and systemic inequity is leading to worsening mental health. The event also allowed these leaders to share their thoughts on intervention strategies.

Strategies for Maintaining Mental Health of Educators

eSchool News has shared an article with seven strategies to help support the mental health of educators and afterschool professionals!

Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Webinar Series Recordings

ShareMyLesson has released the recordings of its Wellness Series for educators and afterschool professionals. The series focuses on mental health and providing strategies for stress reduction. The videos are approximately 1-hour each and are free!

White Paper on Dealing with Grief and Loss at School

eSchool News has released a new white paper on coping with grief and loss at schools. The resource shares insights into how prepared educators feel to support students through these tough periods and highlights the need for professional development for the field and support services for youth

Self-Care Guide for Afterschool Professionals

The National AfterSchool Association (NAA) recently published the Afterschool Professional’s Guide to Self-Care for program providers. The free guide hosts information on the basics of self-care, in addition to practical self-care actions and strategies for managing one’s mindset to cope with stress.

Protecting Youth’s Mental Health Report

The U.S. Surgeon General released a new report on supporting youth’s mental health. There are sections that focus on services and strategies that educators and afterschool providers may use to protect youth as we continue to navigate the pandemic. There are also advisories and recommendations for mental well-being for youth themselves.

U.S. Department of Education Resources on Students’ Well-Being

The U.S. Department of Education has compiled a variety of resources for educators and afterschool providers. (Trigger Warning associated with some of these topics and resources)

Tools for Supporting Young Peoples’ Emotional Wellbeing

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have released several resources for providers and families to utilize in order to support children’s emotional wellbeing. There are toolkits and interactive small assessments to review the necessary “tools” for doing so.

Top 10 Youth (Non-COVID-19) Health Problems

Voices of Child Health in Chicago is a program at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago that focuses on surveying Chicagoans to better understand the issues that impact child health in the city. The program has released a new report on the top 10 youth health issues that are not related to the pandemic. Please note a trigger warning as it relates to mental health and illness.

Mental Health Support Resource Created by Students, For Students

eSchool News released an article highlighting a mental health resource that was created by students and is geared towards supporting fellow young people. The resource is free and widely accessible by internet.

The National Center on Afterschool and Summer Enrichment Brief: Supporting and Promoting Mental Health in Out-of-School Time

The National Center on Afterschool and Summer Enrichment (NCASE) recently released a preliminary brief that elevates some of the current mental health needs of youth, their families, and the out-of-school time (OST) workforce.

Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago: Voices of Child Health in Chicago Report

Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago has written a new report regarding youth mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. This report focuses on data from youth living in the City of Chicago and highlights what resources are available to young people and families. To read the report, click here

National Federation of Families: Celebrate Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Children’s Mental Health Awareness week. The National Federation of Families has created activities for families to help educate their children on mental health, including the mood crew. To access these resources, click here.

National AfterSchool Association: 104 Self-Care Strategies

In celebration of afterschool professionals, across the country, and Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week, the National AfterSchool Association has developed a list of self-care strategies and ideas for providers! To download the guide, click here.

My CHI. My Future.: Mental Wellness Resources Relating to Elections


Over the summer, My CHI. My Future. worked alongside Youth Commissioners to understand that what young people want most is a space with caring adults, to be heard, and a place to reflect on current events. To help to process current events, My CHI. My Future compiled a variety of mental wellness resources for young people, communities, and providers looking to foster conversations around the elections in their programming.

To access the full list of resources, click here.


Indoor & Outdoor Environments

Toolkit for Promoting Health and Well-Being

The National Recreation and Park Association released a new resource, Community Wellness Hubs: A Toolkit for Advancing Community Health and Well-Being Through Parks and Recreation. This toolkit highlights the role park and recreation professionals play in advancing community health and well-being but summer learning providers may leverage the toolkit to support programming!

School Health Index Tool This tool is an online assessment that helps schools understand what best practices are in place, and where they can improve. All schools that complete AFHK’s School Health Index by October 31st will be in the running for a prize, including gift cards, AFHK swag bags and more.
Healthy Eating & Physical Activity (Standards 2.0) The NAA has completed an extensive update of the healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) standards.






























Safety, Health, & Nutrition



How Poverty Impacts Out-Of-School-Time

The National AfterSchool Association wrote a blog that discussed the unique challenges that those experiencing poverty face when it comes to the accessibility and affordability of out-of-school-time (OST) programs. 

End of SNAP Emergency Allotments – Awareness Toolkits Now Available!

The Greater Chicago Food Depository is sharing toolkits with materials to help increase awareness in communities about the upcoming decrease in SNAP benefits. Awareness materials in the toolkits include: content for website, printable flyer to distribute, social media graphics and text, and frequently asked questions.

Free At Home COVID-19 Tests

The White House has made at home COVID-19 tests free again. The tests will start to ship the week of December 19, 2022. 


Flus, Colds, RSV


EducationWeek posted an article highlighting some of the unique challenges brought on by the flu, colds, COVID-19, and RSV. The article also discussed strategies to combat these illnesses and how to keep youth safe this season. 


Declining Enrollment and Child Hunger


The Greater Chicago Food Depository published a brief discussing the decline in school enrollment in school age youth and how it has an impact of children’s hunger. The brief also discusses state and federal policies that can be put in place to help fight child hunger. 

Vaccine Equity

The Vaccine Equity Cooperative developed a set of recommendations to ensure all children receive equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Trauma-Informed Practices Help Both Students and Educators

EducationWeek published an op-ed piece showcasing the importance of using trauma-informed practices for students. The author describes the benefits of leveraging these strategies for educators, especially in response to processing the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic in the education field.

Survey for Families on School Meals

The Greater Chicago Food Depository is conducting a survey with Illinois families with school-aged children. about the national school meals program. This program is federal meal initiative operating in schools that provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The purpose of this survey is to understand you and your family’s:

  • Awareness and Perceptions of School Meals
  • Perceptions and experiences with the application process

The learnings from this survey will be used to inform recommendations for a statewide school meal application. To be eligible for this survey, you must be a parent or guardian to a school-aged child. Families who complete a survey will be placed in a raffle to receive a $50 gift card to compensate their time. Interested families can access the survey in English or Spanish.

New Report on the Impact of COVID-19 on Education in Illinois 

Advance Illinois has published an updated report on the state of education in Illinois as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there is not a specific portion dedicated to out-of-school time (OST), there are sections on K-12 instruction and social-emotional learning and mental health. 

Chicago Public Schools Approves Budget for School Resource Officers

Chalkbeat Chicago reports that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will spend $10.2 million to station police officers at 40 school sites starting this fall. This is an $800,000 decrease from the previous school year and reflects the current climate in which dozens of campuses have voted in recent years to “shift funds away from punitive discipline measures and toward more restorative practices, such as healing circles and alternative interventions.” According to CPS representatives, the new Whole School Comprehensive Safety Plan was developed after significant collaboration with five community groups, including Mikva Challenge and COFI. Ultimately, the goal was to empower school communities to make the decision of retaining or removing officers.


Talking About School Safety With Kids: A Guide for Educators


EducationWeek published an article for both formal and informal educators regarding school
safety. This guide may help program providers develop a safe and traumainformed
environment for youth to discuss and process the recent violence in communities across the
nation. In particular, the article share practices for talking about the school shooting in Uvalde,

Four Strategies for Educators for Discussing Race-Based Violence

EducationWeek has published an article with some strategies for discussing current events as they relate to race-based violence. The strategies will help providers share information in a trauma-informed way and provide space for students to process these incidents.

New Brief on Food Insecurity

The Greater Chicago Food Depository released a white paper discussing the impact of food inflation on food insecure families and the nutrition assistance safety net. The organization is also hosting a webinar to diver deeper into this paper on May 23, 2022, at 1:00 p.m.

Meal Ideas for Youth During the Summer

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a few posters with ideas on what delicious meals and snacks can be served every day through the Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP).

Promoting Healthy Futures: Afterschool Provides the Supports Parents Want for Children’s Well-Being

On April 13, 2022, the Afterschool Alliance released new data that showcases the importance of afterschool nationally and within the state of Illinois. Most Illinois parents see afterschool programs as part of the solution to the social and mental health struggles so many students are experiencing right now.

Resources for Supporting Trans and Nonbinary Youth

Last week,the U.S. Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hosted a webinar featuring educators and experts who will discuss challenges faced by many transgender and nonbinary students and actionable strategies for providing support. Below, you will find several of the resources that were highlighted during the event for formal and informal educators to leverage (Trigger Warning for the following Content):

Updated Report on Youth COVID-19 Vaccine Rates in Chicago

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago has released a brief report on the current levels of youth COVID-19 vaccinations within the City of Chicago.

Nutrition Program Survey Feedback Needed from Families!

The Illinois Commission to End Hunger is working to improve nutrition programs for children and youth in Illinois. Participation in this one-hour survey will help to support families in your school district! Participants will receive a $50 Visa gift card as reimbursement for their time. Please share this information with family members of school-age children. Contact Laura O’Carroll, public policy manager at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, at or (773) 843-2846.

Free Application to Assist Families in Accessing Free Meals in Illinois

FoodFinder has partnered with the University of Illinois Extension SNAP-Ed program to create Find Food IL, an Illinois-specific food resource tool for families. The application allows individuals to find places in their community offering free food or meals, stores and markets that accept SNAP/LINK or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) coupons, and the closest Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) or WIC office.

Afterschool Meal Report

The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) recently released its 2021 report on the state of afterschool meal participation. Data from this resource indicates an increase of almost 3% between October 2019 and October 2020, which is approximately 1.5 million meals served to youth in programs per day. 

COVID-19 Vaccination Timeline for Youth

In this Chalkbeat Chicago article, Dr. Ngozi Ezike answers questions regarding the Delta variant, school closures, and the timeline for COVID-19 vaccinations for youth under 12 years old in the state of Illinois.

Public Health Interim Guidance for Local Health Departments and Pre-K- Schools

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has released guidance on COVID-19 Exclusion Protocols. There is also guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) regarding the return to in-person instruction.

Strategies for Safe Sports-based Afterschool Programming

The Afterschool Alliance has launched an initiative with Coaching Corps in order to help afterschool programs facilitate sports-based activities. Resources include free tools and coaching tips based on youth development principles, and guidelines for operating safely and supporting social-emotional well-being. Your program can also sign up and become a partner to gain access to Coaches Corner for ongoing support.

Food Research & Action Center: SNAP Data Released

The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) has released data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The research indicates that the national participation in SNAP among U.S. citizen children in households with a non-citizen dropped by 22.5 percent from FY18 to FY19. This is a decrease that is five times greater than that of the decrease in participation among U.S. citizen children in citizen-only households, and is alarming given that the program helps to feed and support youth in Illinois!

Illinois State Board of Education: Return to In-Person Instruction Guide

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has released a guide for school administrators, educators, and out-of-school time (OST) providers to utilize in preparation of returning to in-person instruction or programming. To read the guide, click here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Updated Guidance for Operating Youth and Summer Camps during COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have updated its guidance for providers facilitating youth development and summer learning programs amidst the pandemic. To review the document along with a variety of resources for planning for summer 2021 operations, click here.

President Biden’s Administration: Community Violence Interventions Fact Sheet

Last week, the Biden Administration released a fact sheet detailing its initiatives, proposals, and investments as part of a package of initial actions to reduce gun violence. There was favorable language surrounding the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program as being an allowable framework for intervention. The Department of Education “will issue guidance on how grantees can use 21st CCLC funds to support children impacted by trauma and reengage disconnected youth.” To read this fact sheet, click here.

Chicago Public Schools: Free Meals

Chicago Public Schools is providing balanced and nourishing pick-up meals to any child ages 18 and under. The Nutrition Support Services department serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals, at select schools, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. To access more information regarding meals, click here. To review the map of school sites, click here.

No Kid Hungry: School Meals Marketing Toolkit

No Kid Hungry has created a new School Meals Marketing Toolkit to help partners, school districts, and communities get the word out about school meals. The toolkit includes a variety of both ready-to-use and customizable social media content for digital platforms and to print out to share with families. The toolkit also includes flyers, phone scripts, and a customizable letter to families and resources are available in both English and Spanish. To access the toolkit, click here.

Food Research and Action Center Report: Afterschool Suppers: A Snapshot of Participation

On October 20, 2020, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released a report highlighting the federal Afterschool Meals Program. According to the report, more than 1.4 million low-income youth participated in the Afterschool Meals Program on an average day in October 2019, an increase of more than 86,900 participants. The report also calls for significant investments at the federal, state, and local levels in order to create more opportunities for afterschool programs to provide integral enrichment activities and meals for young people. To read the full report, click here.

Outdoor Safety & Health Guide

The benefits of outdoor recreation are not only physical, but social, emotional and intellectual as well. However keeping youth and adults safe outdoors requires some special precautions. Use this guide to review the many steps you can take in advance to make any outdoor activity as safe and as fun as possible.

Cold Weather Resources

Every year, Illinois averages at least five major winter storms that impact millions of people. Being prepared for winter doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Check out these severe weather resources compiled by the Illinois School and Campus Resource Center to be sure you are always prepared.

Think Act Grow (TAG) Playbook

The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health recently published its updated Think-Act-Grow (TAG) Playbook highlighting ways to help keep youth healthy and away from risk factors.

Afterschool and Childhood Nutrition FRAC’s latest report identifies the vital role afterschool programs play and provides participation data on access to the federally funded afterschool nutrition initiative.
Teen Drug and Alcohol Abuse’s online resource explains the effect of substance abuse on teens and provides steps that can be taken to support prevention/recovery efforts.



This webinar will focus on creative and appealing ways to offer vegetables at meals and snacks in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). This webinar will be held on July 18th in both English and in Spanish. The English webinar will be held from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. and the Spanishwebinar will be held from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. To register for the English webinar, click here. To register for the Spanish webinar, click here.




How to Support Middle School- Aged Students

A new report from Chiefs of Change, a network of state and district leaders, outlined the unique academic and social- emotional support that middle school student need, and the best way for administrators to provide it. Research has shown that middle school is a pivotal time in a child’s life regarding academics, and it is crucial to make sure they are being adequately supported.


Supporting Youth Experiencing Homelessness 

The Learning Policy Institute published a report on October 3, 2022 that covered how five school districts across the country are addressing the needs of students experiencing homelessness. The report also covered policy solutions to combating youth homelessness, some of which included increased investments to community schools and ensuring financial resources are available to cover the cost of staffing and supports for homeless programs as well as students and families‘ needs.

Strategies to Reduce Food Waste in Schools & Child Nutrition Programs

No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices highlights some of the most effective ways to help reduce, recover, and recycle food waste from school meals and in other child nutrition programs.

Mental Health Conditions and the Illinois Juvenile Justice System

Report contains recommendations to divert youth living with mental health conditions from the juvenile justice system.

Fueling Students Today 4 Tomorrow Rise & Shine Illinois’ 2018 child nutrition report highlights the efforts that have been made to increase participation in Breakfast After the Bell, At-Risk Afterschool, and Summer Meal Programs.


Professional Development & Qualifications

New Brief on the Health and Human Services Fields in Illinois 

The Illinois Partners for Human Service  has shared its full report on the needs of the health and human services workforce in the state. This resource is based upon the Coalition’s initial workforce research in the Fall of 2021.

Out-of-School Time Toolkit

Provides resources to support policy efforts for incorporating healthy food and active play into out-of-school time programs as a strategy for preventing childhood obesity.


Family & Community Partnerships

Chicago’s Halloween Toolkit  The City of Chicago and My CHI. My Future. developed a toolkit to help everyone celebrate Halloween safely.  The resource includes COVID-19 guidelines and social media resources.
NAMI SWI Children’s Resource Guide Provides families information to help them understand and advocate for young people dealing with mental illness



Youth Development, Programming, & Activities



Moving Our Bodies During Summer 2022

Sesame Street in Communities has created ways to incorporate reading and math with physical activity to keep kids learning and moving all summer long. These resources are geared towards students in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade.

The Active After School Database

The Active After School Activity Database hosts hundreds of physical activities that afterschool providers can sort by age, skill, time duration, afterschool environment (virtual, in-person, hybrid), and group size.

Digital Nutrition Education

Use project-based learning and technology to engage 6th graders in nutrition education while meeting educational standards for English and Health. In this Fueling My Healthy Life lesson, students have access to a variety of learning activities including videos, a digital and interactive group challenge, goal setting, and informational texts.

Yoga for Self-Regulation, Attention, & Learning

Use these yoga practices to facilitate discussions with youth about sensations in their body that they may experience when they feel angry, frustrated, sad, worried or fearful and how important it is to notice when their body is feeling this way so they can calm their nervous system.

Team Nutrition Popular Events Idea Booklet

Provides fun ways for promoting healthy eating and physical activity in elementary/middle school.

Exercise and Academic Achievement The Walking Classroom is an award winning program that combines listening with exercise to strengthen the physical, mental, and academic health of students.
Play All May May 2019 marks the first annual celebration of play! Check out these 31 play inspiration ideas and join the fun on the official Play All May celebration page.