• All children 18 years of age or younger who drop in at an approved open site or are enrolled in an eligible closed enrolled site may receive meals.
• At camps, only children eligible for free and reduced-price meals may receive meals. Please note that 'camp' denotes a specific type of summer meals site, as defined by the USDA.
• People over age 18 enrolled in school programs for persons with disabilities may receive meals.
Most sponsors may be approved to receive reimbursement for up to two meals per day. Eligible meals are breakfast, lunch, snack (morning and/or evening), and supper. The only combination not eligible for reimbursement is lunch and supper. If your site primarily serves migrant children, or if you run a residential or day camp, you may be eligible to serve up to three reimbursable meals each day.
- Be a Sponsor: Make an investment in the children in your community. If your organization already provides services to the community and has capable staff, good management practices, and the ability to run or contract for food service operations, you can administer the SFSP.
- Host a Site: Some organizations do not have the financial or administrative ability to run the program, but they can supervise food service for children as a site. Meal sites are most successful when paired with enrichment programming.
- Be a Vendor: Organizations with kitchens and food service staff – including schools, commercial companies, and public or private nonprofit institutions – can participate in the SFSP as vendors. Instead of administering or supervising a meal service site, vendors sell prepared meals under an agreement or contract with an approved SFSP sponsor.
- Volunteer: Even if your organization cannot take on the responsibilities of a sponsor or a site, you can team up with a sponsor to provide outreach materials to educate families about the program and help lead fun summer activities that encourage participation.
- Provide Activities: One of the best ways to encourage children to participate in summer meals is to ensure there are onsite activities. If your organization is in a position to provide enrichment or physical activity programming at an existing meals site, or can introduce meals at locations where activities already occur, reach out to a local program sponsor to find out how you can best collaborate to keep kids engaged and well-fed all summer long.
Which types of organizations are eligible to become SFSP sponsors?
- Public or private nonprofit schools
- Units of local, municipal, county, tribal, or state government
- Private nonprofit organizations
- Public or private nonprofit camps
- Public or private nonprofit universities or colleges
There are four types of meal sites:
- Open: Provides all children with meals at no charge on a drop-in basis; no registration is required. At least half the children in the area must be eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, or the physical location is deemed ‘area-eligible’ based on census tract or block group data.
- Closed enrolled: Provides all children with meals at no charge, though advance enrollment is required. Closed enrolled sites can collect income eligibility forms or use school or census data to determine site eligibility.
- Camp: Offers regularly scheduled meal service as part of a residential or day camp program. Only income-eligible children may receive meals at no charge.
- Migrant: Primarily serves children of migrant workers. All children at migrant sites receive meals free of charge.
Meal service sites may be located in a variety of settings, including schools, recreation centers, playgrounds, parks, churches, community centers, libraries, day camps, residential summer camps, housing projects, migrant centers, or on Indian reservations.
In order to operate an open meal site, sites must be determined area eligible. Determining if your site is area eligible can be complicated. Navigating Area Eligibility in Summer and Afterschool Meals provides information on how to determine if a site is area eligible, the types of data that can be used to make that determination, and options for meal service if a site is not area eligible. It also outlines flexibilities available for what data can be used to determine eligibility for summer 2022 and the 2022-2023 school year.
If your site has its own kitchen, you may want to prepare meals yourself. If your kitchen is not on the premises, you may still want to prepare your own meals and then transport them to the site. Meals you prepare yourself receive a slightly higher rate of reimbursement. However, many government and private nonprofit sponsors lack the kitchen facilities to prepare meals themselves. In this case, you may arrange to purchase meals from a school, local hospital, or another public or private food vendor with approved meal preparation facilities.
For additional information and guidance around summer meals, visit the USDA's Summer Food Service Program landing page. The following resources may be particularly useful: