About Summer Meals
For many kids, summer vacation is a much deserved reward for a year of hard work in the classroom. For some who rely on free and reduced-price school meals, however, the summer months can be difficult. When school is out, these kids no longer have access to school meals and their families’ budgets are often stretched to the breaking point. In fact, studies show that kids are at a higher risk for both obesity and hunger during the summer months. Many families also face the stress of providing safe, supervised and affordable places for kids and teens to socialize, play and continue to learn.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Summer meals programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option/National School Lunch Program, help kids who rely on free and reduced-price school meals to continue receiving healthy food during the summer. Summer meals programs are funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); administered by state agencies, such as state departments of education; and run by public and private organizations, including schools, community centers and faith-based organizations.
Summer meals programs can provide an important source of nutritious food for America’s youth during the critical summer months. The availability of free meals is also an incentive for children to participate in summer enrichment programs, which means that children are not only well-fed, but in a safe environment engaged in educational and recreational activities that can, in turn, help return them to school ready to learn.
Despite all of the benefits of summer meals programs, they are severely underutilized. According to the Food Research and Action Center, only about 15 percent of kids who eat free or reduced-price school meals also receive meals during the summer. That means that about 16 million students who rely on free or reduced-price meals during the school year do not have access to them when school is out.
A Summer Food Service Program sponsor administers the program for one or more meal sites. The sponsor is responsible for all financial and administrative aspects of the program. Sponsors may be a public school department, local government agency, camp, or private nonprofit organization. For profit companies are not eligible to become a SFSP sponsor.
Sponsors are responsible for:
- Training site staff
- Monitoring the sites for compliance with program regulations
- Preparing claims for reimbursement and receiving the federal reimbursement.
- Maintaining all required documentation
A site is a state-approved physical location where summer meals are served to kids. There are five types of sites, but the most common sites are open and closed enrolled sites. Open site operate in areas where at least half of the kids are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. Meals are served free to any child at an open site. Closed enrolled sites provide free meals to children enrolled in an activity program. A closed enrolled site is eligible for SFSP if at least half of the enrolled kids are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. In this case each child must return an application to the sponsor.
Sites are responsible for:
- Activities and meal service at the site
- Volunteer management
- Distributing meals by following SFSP guidelines
- Keeping daily records of meals served
- Storing and handling food appropriately
- Keep the site clean and sanitary
- Assisting your sponsor promoting the program in the community
SFSP reimburses approved sponsors for serving meals that meet Federal nutritional guidelines. Sponsors receive payments from USDA, through their State agencies, based on the number of meals they serve.
- Reimbursement rates- 2015 Reimbursement rates
General summer meals resources:
- USDA Summer Food Service Program- http://www.summerfood.usda.gov/
- Summer Food Service Program Fact Sheet; Illinois State Board of Education; Nutrition Programs Division- http://www.isbe.state.il.us/nutrition/pdf/sfsp_fact_sheet.pdf