How to Get Free Meals for Your Kids During Summer

The states have established a summer program to ensure that children from low-income families receive nutritious meals when school is on summer break. Children must be 18 years of age or younger to qualify for the program. The end of the school year means one guaranteed healthy meal will be eliminated from a child’s diet. Parents can have a difficult time adjusting to the new schedule and providing that additional meal at home. Food insecurity can have adverse effects on children’s futures, as it has been directly linked to widening the achievement gap and childhood obesity. Low-income children are more likely to fall behind academically during the summer when their food structure is disrupted. It has been proven that during summer months children gain weight two to three time faster, which often leads to childhood obesity. In order to help prevent children from falling behind, the states have established several summer meal programs. Review the following sections to learn more about summer meal programs and how to participate.

Learn About the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) 

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a federal program administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) agency. Sponsors enter agreements with state agencies and follow federal guidelines in order to serve meals under the program. As the SFSP programs is federally funded, sponsors are reimbursed for the meals served to children participating in the program. There are several site options that participate in the summer food program. Open sites provide free meals to all children in communities where 50% of the children qualified for reduced priced school meals. Restricted open sites have similar guidelines to open sites, but include certain safety and security restrictions. Closed enrolled sites are for children of low-income families who are enrolled in free or reduced lunch programs through the National School Lunch Program. Migrant families can send their children to migrant sites to participate in the summer food program. Sites provide one or two meals and snacks each day. Migrant sites often serve up to three meals per day. Meals include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as low-fat and unsweetened foods. Snacks can range from muffins and milk to granola and hummus.

Find Out About Supporting Summer Meals Programs 

City leaders are an integral part of promoting nutritious summer meal programs and ensuring they continue to exist. City leaders can help sponsor out-of-school programs and assess the needs of families during the summer months. A city leader can head community events and establish workgroups to raise awareness and help implement meal programs. Local government agencies, nonprofit organizations and schools can act as program sponsors in the area. All local centers that provide summer meals will go through a training program to ensure they meet federal guidelines and every meal is nutritious and sustainable. Anyone interested in participating in summer meal programs can contact the National Hunger Hotline or locate a site online. Keep in mind that summer meal programs might be different from state to state and have different requirements and benefits.