USDA’s summer meal programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option, rely on innovative and collaborative efforts to reach children in need. The Summer Meals Toolkit is designed for individuals and organizations interested in serving as Summer Meal champions in their communities at any level of program administration.
The toolkit is web-based, and includes seven ‘mini-toolkits’ targeting specific audiences and topics. For example, the State toolkit is focused on State agencies administering USDA summer meal programs. The Reaching Families contains information to help organizations increase awareness about the availability of summer meals in their community.
- State Agencies
As the administrators of the USDA summer meal programs, the State agencies are the key to the success of the program, in its operation, expansion, and the preservation of integrity. This section of the toolkit includes information on program policy and administration, how to plan and collaborate with partnering organizations and sponsors, and information on working with schools.
- Partnering Organizations
USDA encourages collaborations with valued partners at National, State, and local levels to raise awareness about the nutrition gap low-income children face when schools close for the summer and the availability of summer meals. This section of the toolkit includes tips for getting the word out through community-based outreach, information on program policy and administration, ideas for planning and collaborating with State agencies and sponsors, and how to share resources and best practices.
- Summer Meal Sponsors
Sponsors are at the heart of the USDA summer meal programs. While responsible for the operation of summer meal sites, sponsors also must ensure access to meals is available and known to eligible children in their communities. This section of the toolkit includes resources to help sponsors operate a robust program. This includes information on meal planning, partner collaboration, vendor relations, and food safety as well as how to share resources and best practices.
- Summer Meal Sites
Summer meal sites are where all the hard work of the State agency, partnering organizations, and sponsors come together. A smoothly run site is something that every sponsor and site operator hopes to achieve. The key is an organized, well-supervised program that meets the goal of the summer meal program: to provide fresh, well-balanced meals that are appetizing to children. This section of the toolkit includes resources for site operators, including general information about the program, how to develop a strong relationship with the sponsor, and how to share resources and best practices.
- Reaching Families
A key part of connecting more families to free summer meals is raising awareness about programs and summer meals sites in the community. This section of the toolkit includes tips for working with schools and other sources parents trust to spread the word about the program.
- USDA Resources
While the summer meal programs are administered at the State level, USDA has an extensive list of resources available to assist with program operations and expansion activities. This section of the toolkit includes the Summer Food Rocks flyer, banners and posters, sample public service announcement and radio advertisements, as well as nutrition education resources.
- Communication Strategy and Resources
This section of the toolkit includes media outreach, including social media resources and sample emails and letters, which can be used to spread the word about USDA summer meals at all levels of program administration.