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Understand the Need for Summer and Afterschool Meals
teenage girl standing in front of a mobile meals van with her summer meal

Although kids have access to school breakfast and lunch during the school day, many don't have enough to eat after school or during the summer.


Summer is the hungriest time of year: only about one in six children who receive school meals during the year have access to programs that operate during the summer months. Although families need to provide an additional one to three meals each day for their children, they typically don’t have access to additional resources or revenue over summer vacation. Lean times lead to hard choices for families, and research shows that children are at greater risk for both hunger and unhealthy weight gain during this vulnerable time of year. No Kid Hungry's survey of low-income parents reveals more of their struggle with providing enough nutritious food over the summer as well as their interest in summer meals programs. You can learn more by reading the National Summer Meals Survey Major Findings and the National Summer Meals Survey Full Report.


According to a survey commissioned by No Kid Hungry, nearly two-thirds of low-income parents struggle financially to provide food for their kids after school, and one in four worries that their kids don’t have enough to eat between lunch at school and breakfast the following day. Many more just need healthy fuel for long hours of afterschool activities and homework. Learn more about parents' perceptions on the need for afterschool nutrition programs in the National Afterschool Survey Major Findings and the National Afterschool Survey Full Report.

Despite the interest, our analysis found that there are less than 12 afterschool meals or snacks served for every 100 lunches served to kids in need. Our report, To Meet Need, Growth in Afterschool Snacks and Meals Must Continue: A Report on History and Trends, highlights the huge growth in afterschool meal and snack programs from 2010 to 2015 as well as the large remaining gap.

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Understand How You Can Operate or Support These Programs
kids going through a summer meals line

Your organization can help expand access to these programs as a sponsor, site or partner who provides activities or other support.

Assess your organization’s ability to sponsor the programs

In general, public and private non-profit organizations are eligible to act as sponsors for both summer and afterschool meals. Being a successful sponsor in either program requires sound management, financial resources and staff capacity to meet requirements. At a minimum, sponsors must have administrative capabilities to run the programs. The ability to prepare and deliver meals is a benefit, but many successful sponsors look to vendors to meet this need.

Determine whether your organization or others can serve as program sites

For both summer and afterschool meals, it is important to identify safe, trusted and accessible locations where meals can be served. Organizations that operate or have access to such locations can work with a sponsor to bring meals to those sites even if they are not currently well positioned to act as sponsors themselves.

The exact site requirements are slightly different for summer and afterschool meals.

  • For summer meals sites, enrichment activities are recommended but not required, while afterschool meals sites must offer some kind of supervised educational or enrichment programming.
  • Sites in both programs must meet applicable licensing or health and safety standards, but these are sometimes different across programs, and they may also vary by state, county or municipality.
  • Afterschool meals sites must be located within the attendance boundary of a public school where at least half of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, although there are options to serve snacks through other child nutrition programs if this criteria is not met. Summer meals sites may also qualify as area-eligible based on school data, but there are additional avenues to qualify through census data or household income eligibility information. 

The Supper Makes Cents for Sponsors resource can help you learn how your organization could benefit from afterschool meals and get the answers to frequently asked questions.

Use the No Kid Hungry Averaged Eligibility Map to see if your summer meals site or day care home is located in an area-eligible location based on the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s averaging policy.

Partner with sponsors and sites

Community-based organizations can support summer and afterschool programs in numerous ways even if they are not able to be sponsors or sites. Examples include providing food or meals, providing or arranging transportation to and from meal sites, or assisting with outreach and promotion. Partnerships forged in support of one program may also help support implementation and operation of others. For ideas and resources to support partnerships, visit the Collaborative Planning page within the summer meals section.