365 Days of Service with Child Nutrition Programs


Hunger Hits When School Is Out

Many families face difficulty putting enough healthy food on the table every day for their children.


A Third of the Year Without Meals

More than one-third of the year is made up of “non-traditional times” where children do not have consistent access to school meals or summer meals programs, such as weekends during the school year and summer, holidays, school breaks like winter and spring break, and other non-school days like teacher in-service days. Unanticipated closures, such as days off for snow or extreme heat, building maintenance, or teacher strikes, can add to the number of days that kids are out of school during the school year. And with some schools moving to four-day weeks, kids are out of school and missing a vital source of nutrition for even more days.


How to Serve Meals When School Is Out

The child nutrition programs make it possible to serve meals any and every day of the year. It’s just a matter of choosing the right program based on your organization, the type of day, and the meals you want to offer.

Program Options

The CACFP At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program allows sites to serve meals on any day during the regular school year as long as enrichment activities are available. This includes weekends, school breaks, holidays, and unanticipated closures that occur within the school year. 

The Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option allow sites to serve meals every day during summer vacation, including weekends and any summer holidays like 4th of July, as well as during unanticipated school closures during the school year. 

Other Requirements

Even during non-traditional service days and unanticipated closures, standard rules apply to these programs.

Identifying Sites

When it comes to non-traditional serving times, it’s often best to start with successful current sites that are already open during non-traditional times or plan to do so. If you’re ready to look beyond your current sites, assess your community to locate places where children and families naturally congregate on weekends or during breaks. During unanticipated school closures, though, there are often additional logistical considerations, like safety and accessibility. 


Child Nutrition Programs in Action

Stories from Baltimore, MD, Lansing, MI, Tulsa, OK, and Norfolk, VA illustrate how operators across the country are making meals available to children 365 days a year. 

Weekends, holidays and other days off school make up more than one third of the year. This often creates a gap in service for hungry kids, but it doesn’t have to: this tells you how child nutrition programs can serve kids every day of the year.