Successful Non-Congregate Meal Service Models for Rural Areas: Implementation Guide (2024 Update)

With the passage of federal legislation in December 2022 and USDA’s announcement of its interim final rule in December 2023, Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and NSLP Seamless Summer Option (SSO) sponsors across the country can now operate non-congregate programs in rural communities without access to a congregate meal site.

For more information, see USDA’s webpage about non-congregate summer meals, which links to numerous guidance documents and resources.

This resource outlines effective non-congregate meal service models. Use this guide to find strategies and tactics to execute a successful non-congregate summer meals program in your rural community.

Please contact your state agency to confirm the eligibility of your proposed service area and model.

This resource includes:

  • Important definitions related to non-congregate meal service and rural areas
  • Considerations for non-congregate meal service
  • Meal service models (descriptions, tips, and considerations)
    • Drive-thru or curbside pick-up
    • Walk-up distributions
    • Mobile route distributions
    • Direct home delivery
  • Logistical considerations including equipment lists
  • Communication strategies
  • Tips for partnerships 

You can look up a site's rural and area eligibility status with No Kid Hungry's Summer Meals Eligibility Map. The map includes area eligibility data along with rural eligibility for non-congregate meal service.