Summer is coming, and that means the school year is ending. Unfortunately, this also means the end of subsidized school meals – meals that 21 million kids depend on for reliable nutrition.
To this end, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is designed to help low-income kids and families get access to free, nutritious lunches (and occasionally breakfast, too). The SFSP distributes meals that meet school nutritional standards.
The program, which distributes food at 42,000 sites across the country, has been around since the 1960s but too few families are taking advantage of the program; only 15% of eligible children are getting their free meals over the summer. Families who qualify for meal assistance during the school year are also eligible for this program for summer meals. Families with incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for the program; you can find the full eligibility requirements here.
The SFSP relies on a network of state education agencies and sponsors to organize distribution centers and give out meals. Although the centers are usually located in areas with higher concentrations of low-income families and children, the program is also affiliated with summer camps that can provide meals for their campers.
You can find a list of sites that offer free meals through the SFSP here, along with other resources that can help you and your kids get access to, and spread the word about, free meals this summer.
Alex Leedom authored this report.