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State Summer Meals Legislation
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States can take legislative action to improve access to the summer nutrition programs. States can allocate funding to encourage site expansion and support programming, require participation in high-need areas and make changes to enhance administrative efficiencies.

Specific state policy changes to the summer nutrition programs have included:

  • Requiring schools to conduct outreach to families
  • Requiring schools to offer summer meals programs
  • Providing waivers to streamline administrative processes
  • Encouraging data sharing between state agencies and non-profit partners
  • Expanding the use of census data for area eligibility determinations

The following table provides information about passed summer meals legislation. Links are included to the language of each bill.

Passed Legislation: Summer Meals

State Year Category Summary
Florida 2013 Mandate Requires participation in the summer meals program for school districts within 5 miles of at least one elementary school at which 50 percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals and for the duration of 35 consecutive days.
Illinois 2013 Mandate Requires participation in the summer meals program for school districts that have a summer school program operating during the summer months in a school where 50 percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals must serve breakfast and/or lunch to the children in their summer school program along with opening their doors to the community.
Maine 2013 Mandate Requires participation in the summer meals program for school administrative units with at least one public school in which at least 50% of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
Massachusetts 2013 Funding For summer meals sponsors seeking to sponsor new summer meal sites and extend number of operating days. 
Minnesota 2013 Funding Supplemental meal reimbursement for summer meals sponsors.
Nebraska 2012 Funding Supports program expansion for summer meals sponsors.
New York 2012 Funding Supplemental meal reimbursement for summer meals sponsors.
Ohio 2012 (Amended) Mandate Requires community schools with at least one-fifth of students eligible under for free breakfasts to establish a summer intervention that includes summer meals programs.
Ohio 2017 Mandate Requires schools with at least 50% free or reduced price eligible students to allow a sponsor to use its facilities to provide summer meals if the school chooses not to administer the program itself. Legislation can be found by clicking on "Legislation Text", page 863.
Oregon 2014 Funding For summer meals programs to purchase equipment, meet health and safety regulations, provide program activities, or fund outreach activities and materials.
Texas 2011 Mandate Requires school districts where 50 percent or more of the students are eligible to participate in the national free or reduced-price lunch program to participate in the summer meals program for at least 30 days during the period in which district schools are recessed for the summer.
Vermont 2010 Mandate Requires school districts to participate in the summer meals program- if they operate a summer program for at least 15 hours per week and at least one school in the district has a student population at least 50 percent of which is eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Washington 2005 Mandate Requires a school district to implement a summer food service program in each public school in the district in which a summer program of academic, enrichment is provided and in which fifty percent or more of the children enrolled in the school qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Sample Summer Meals Proclamation provides example languages that state leaders, policy makers and other crucial community stakeholders can use to raise awareness about hunger and food insecurity among low-income school-aged children during the summer time when school is closed. It also highlights the vitality of the summer meals program in tackling hunger and food insecurity during the summer time while helping children to be ready and thrive in the school year. 

2017-2018 State-Level Policy and Legislative Trends outlines major legislative and policy initiatives introduced across states in their respective annual legislative sessions. This resource focuses on three federal nutrition assistance programs and major legislative trends introduced: School Breakfast Program (SBP), Summer Food Service Program(SFSP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

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USDA Waiver Requests
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Sponsors of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) may request a waiver of certain program requirements from USDA, including the congregate feeding requirement, under certain allowable circumstances such as extreme weather conditions or safety concerns. This gives sponsors greater flexibility in administering the program and being able to reach more children in need.

The USDA has provided guidance for the types of requirements that may or may not be waived, as well as the process for submitting a waiver request in the USDA SFSP Waiver Request Guidance and Protocol. USDA has also made available the USDA Excessive Heat Demo Q&As to give guidance to sponsors that would like to provide non-congregate meal service to children at sites experiencing excessive heat.

In Spring 2012, No Kid Hungry North Carolina requested a waiver to simplify the application and reporting process for school districts to participate in the SFSP. The North Carolina Summer Meals Waiver Case Study provides detailed information on the process and experience. USDA approved the request and in the fall of that same year extended most of the North Carolina waiver elements nationally. Summer Food Service Program--North Carolina Waiver Request provides a copy of this request that was ultimately approved.  

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