During the school year, many children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch through the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs. But, when school is not in session, thousands of children are left hungry. The USDA's Summer Food Service Program provides free meals and snacks for low-income children 18 years of age and younger during the summer. Hunger is one of the most severe roadblocks to the learning process. Lack of nutrition during the summer months may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins again. Hunger also may make children more prone to illness and other health issues. The Summer Food Service Program is designed to fill that nutrition gap and make sure children can get the nutritious meals they need.
Your camp can become involved in the US Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program in four ways:
Your Camp Can Become a Sponsor
Limited to Not For Profit Organizations
Becoming a sponsor means that you will serve as the organizer for the Summer Food Service Program sites in your area. Sponsors must be able to provide a capable staff, managerial skills, and food service capabilities. A sponsor may provide its own meals, purchase meals through an agreement with another organization, or contract for meals with a food vendor.
Your Camp Can Become a Feeding Site
Limited to Not For Profit Organziations
The Summer Food Service Program reaches only a fraction of the children in need. The primary reason for the limited access to the program is that there are not enough feeding sites. Your camp can become a feeding site. (This might include serving as a site for children in your area who are not enrolled in your camp program.) Sites are the physical locations were food is served. Each site location must work with a Summer Food Service Program sponsor that is financially and administratively responsible for the meal service at the site.
Your Camp Can Prepare the Meals for a Sponsor
Both Not For Profit and For Profit Organizations May Participate
Your camp can serve as a vendor for a sponsor, without your having to administer the program nor serve as a site. You can sell prepared meals to an approved sponsor. If your camp already prepares meals, this is a simple and effective way to become involved in your community and the Summer Food Service Program!
Your Camp Staff and Campers Can Serve as Volunteers
If you are not able to serve as a sponsor or site, consider involving your camp in a community service project by volunteering. Volunteers help with basics like transporting food, setting up or cleaning up a site, and they can also plan and do educational or recreational activities with the children.
Resources and More Information
- Individual states manage all of the child nutrition programs. For more information on how to participate in your state, contact your state summer food program agency.
- More information about becoming a sponsor of the USDA Summer Food Service Program
- More information about becoming a feeding site of the USDA Summer Food Service Program
- More information about preparing meals for a sponsor of the USDA Summer Food Service Program
- More information about volunteering at a USDA Summer Food Service Program Site
- Requirements for the kinds of meals that must be offered at USDA Summer Food Service Program sponsor sites.
- Outreach Toolkit for Sponsors and Sites
- A Guide to Starting a Summer Food Service Program in your Community