Program sponsors are community providers who ensure that children have access to summer nutrition programs when school is out. Sponsors are most likely to succeed when they have access to targeted technical assistance resources, support from community partners, and information about eligible communities to support program expansion over time.

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Support Existing Sponsors
man and boy standing in front of van that gives out summer meals

Experienced sponsors – those who manage the financial and administrative aspects of programming – are crucial to the success of summer meals programs since they understand various requirements of the program and have experience addressing implementation challenges. It is imperative that these partners have the planning resources they need to evaluate program performance and potential areas for expansion as well as opportunities to network with their peers around common challenges and opportunities during the summer months.

  • Proactive Planning for Sponsors: This yearly planning calendar is designed to support sponsors as they plan and implement a sustainable summer meals program. Key planning and implementation activities are listed chronologically to enhance operations and maximize opportunities for growth.
  • No Kid Hungry Strategies for Sponsor Retention: This resource provides a timeline with specific actions to help anti-hunger advocates maximize support and retention of strong summer meals program sponsors.
  • No Kid Hungry Summer Meals Calculator: A thorough budgeting process is essential to operating a successful summer meals program. No Kid Hungry’s Summer Meals Calculator is a tool for sponsors that allows for a careful consideration of both resources and costs associated with program operations, including a sensitivity analysis that forecasts financial outcomes based on varying levels of service. This tool accounts for numerous variables related to budget development, including mobile meals.
  • Regional Sponsor Councils: Creating a forum for regular sponsor networking and support is a powerful tool to build the capacity of programs over time. Anti-hunger advocates can play a key supporting role in convening program providers to receive technical assistance and engage in peer mentoring in order to improve the quality and reach of programming.
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Engage Community Partners
school bus with writing on the outside to promote summer meals

Community partners play various roles in supporting the provision of summer meals to children: some provide activities or volunteers at existing sites, while others are well-placed to host meal sites or even become program sponsors. In recent years, a number of key institutions have been especially effective in supporting programs around the country.

  • Municipal Government: Making summer meals programs as strong and effective as they can be requires elected officials from all levels of government who understand the value of these programs to their constituents. Town mayors, city council members, and others elected leaders are in a strong position to elevate the issue of child hunger within the community and are well-placed to create a sense of urgency around the need for collaboration to address barriers that limit participation. No Kid Hungry has prepared a mayor’s checklist to help partners engage city leaders in the fight to end child hunger in their communities.
  • Healthcare Providers: Hospitals and medical clinics play many roles to facilitate health in communities, and an increasing number now participate in summer meals as program sponsors or sites. Offering free summer meals at hospitals represents a powerful opportunity for healthcare institutions to address food insecurity, a social determinant of health. Just a few years ago, only a handful of healthcare institutions participated in summer meals: this model is now expanding to locations across the country. Learn more about summer meals and other nutrition interventions by reading Fighting Hunger Through Healthcare: A Seamless Solution and Serving Summer Meals in Health Care Institutions: An Implementation Guide, developed in partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina. Additionally, the No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices is pleased to present a series of case studies highlighting healthcare institutions that have successfully implemented free summer meals at hospitals.
  • Libraries: As Virginia's former First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe has said, “kids can’t be hungry to learn if they’re just plain hungry.” We agree with her, and that’s why No Kid Hungry is working with state and local agencies to bring federally-funded summer meals to more libraries. The number of libraries serving summer meals has exploded in recent years, and many more are poised to come online as this model matures. Summer learning loss is a key driver of the student achievement gap, and summer meals represent an additional incentive to encourage participation in summer reading programs that support children and families across the country.
  • Faith Communities: Faith-based communities share a commitment to child well-being that can include support for summer meals programming. Religious leaders can call attention to the need for meals within the community, and congregations may be able to host a meals site, provide volunteers, or lend physical resources, such as a bus or van, to help existing sponsors operate more effectively.
  • Public Housing: Extending the availability of meals to public housing sites is a key way to reach children for whom transportation might otherwise be a barrier to accessing summer meals. Work in this area requires collaboration between property managers, program sponsors, and state agencies. Once potential sites have been located, reach out to your state Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or Rural Development representative for help connecting with the right management staff. Engagement with decision-makers is key, as they can support site staff to set aside time to support programming by serving meals or coordinating onsite activities.
  • Transportation Agencies: While transportation is a common barrier in summer meals, opportunities may exist to leverage assets already in place within the community to transport children to sites. Fixed-route and demand-response public transportation services represent an opportunity for children and families in both urban and rural areas to access summer meals sites. Effective cross-promotion of both meals programming and public transportation is a win-win for both parties as they seek to effectively serve the community.
  • Senior Centers: As vulnerable populations, seniors and children can both benefit from greater connectivity of nonprofit and government resources. As government, school and community leaders have worked to expand summer meals programming, more communities have engaged with senior adult nutrition providers who are willing to also serve children. This provides an opportunity for existing senior congregate meals programming to be expanded to include children, thereby leveraging additional federal dollars to support program operations. Learn more in this case study.
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Identify Opportunities for Expansion
group of kids eating their summer meals at a picnic table outside

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Begin the conversation around expansion by encouraging existing sponsors to consider the ‘one more’ approach of adding a site, a day or week of service, or an additional meal to their existing programming. In areas where no programming is in place, work with community partners and the state agency to identify program-eligible areas of greatest need and map out an action plan to expand service to those areas.

Averaged Eligibility Mapping Tool: Need help figuring out if a summer meals site or day care home is area eligible according to USDA’s averaging policy? Use No Kid Hungry’s new Averaged Eligibility Mapping Tool! This tool will show you if the site’s census block group meets the 50% free and reduced price eligibility threshold when averaged with adjacent block groups.


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