While we’ve made progress in reaching low-income children with food during the summer months, getting kids to summer meals sites can be challenging. Parents have indicated an interest in mobile meals programs, and an increasing number of sponsors around the country operate successful programs. This section can help you determine if the mobile meals model is right for your community, as well as guide you in implementing a new mobile program or improving an existing one.

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Mobile Meals: The Basics
kids eating at tables that are placed in front of a mobile meals delivery truck

Whether it is because sites are too far away, transportation is unavailable or too costly for families, or parents just don’t know about summer nutrition programs, millions of low-income kids are missing out on meals every summer. Mobile meals are one solution to this challenge whereby sponsors use vehicles to transport and serve meals directly at apartment complexes, parks, and other locations where children spend their summer days. Mobile programs provide a 'hyper local' food delivery model that may be particularly important in rural or suburban communities where distance and a lack of public transportation options are major barriers to access. 

Research commissioned by No Kid Hungry found that 80 percent of children are at home during the summer months, and an equal number of parents are interested in mobile meals programs. What's more, one in three low-income parents expressed confidence that a mobile meals truck would make their child more likely to participate in the summer meals program. The USDA first provided guidance on operating 'mobile feeding sites' in February 1999. Since the initial memorandum, sponsors have implemented mobile programs in rural, urban, and suburban communities. Mobile meals programs can satisfy the congregate meal requirement while taking meal service into areas that would not otherwise have sites.

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Mobile Meals Toolkit
young girl with sunglasses handing out a milk carton

For those thinking about starting a mobile program, these resources provide a thoughtful set of questions about feasibility as well as the initial planning steps. For those who are already running mobile programs, it provides tips and best practices for program improvement. The Planning and Delivery Checklist also features several case studies that highlight strong programs in action. These materials are designed for sponsors already familiar with the Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Option.

This toolkit was created with support from the Arby’s Foundation and in collaboration with Community Wealth Partners, a Share Our Strength organization. No Kid Hungry thanks the Arby’s Foundation and Community Wealth Partners for their help to create this resource.

Step 1: Are Mobile Meals Right for Your Community?

Mobile meals programs provide a great opportunity to serve more meals to kids in hard-to-reach places – but they also require a lot of planning and coordination, and, in many cases, resources beyond those provided through USDA reimbursements.

  • Summer Meals Calculator: This budgeting tool was developed to help you plan your summer program and includes specific guidance on budgeting for mobile meals.

​​​Step 2: Plan Your Program

As you are completing your application materials to participate in either the Summer Food Service Program or the Seamless Summer Option, you will need to make many choices about how and where you will deliver your program. This section of the toolkit will help you think through where you will serve meals, what additional resources and partners will help your program, and how you will prepare the food to serve.

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