FNS Blog: Across the Country, USDA Kicks Off Summer Meals
USDA Kicks Off Summer Meals
Young participant enjoying her applesauce at a Summer
Food Service site in Westminster, Colorado.

By Andrea Farmer
USDA Food and Nutrition Service

The school year is out and summer meals are in! Around the country, places like schools, recreation centers, parks, churches, and libraries are serving free, nutritious summer meals to kids up to 18 years old through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). SFSP was designed to help low-income students during the summer months who aren’t receiving free or reduced-price school meals to continue to have access to meals and snacks. By partnering with local organizations and governments, we hope to ensure that there are sites providing summer meals for those in need in every community. Check out our summer meals site finder to find the nearest site to you.

Every June, USDA FNS celebrates the unofficial start to summer meals by visiting and promoting summer meals sites across the country. This year, FNS staff visited sites in Greenville, MS, Manchester NH, Ashland, VA, and Westminster, CO. These sites, which were located at a school, playground, Multi-Family Housing apartment, and park, respectively, are great examples of the diverse places where organizations can serve summer meals to reach kids where they live and play.

USDA Kicks Off Summer Meals
Children play a game of hop scotch prior to lunch being
served at a summer meals event in Ashland, Virginia.

The ideal location to serve summer meals is where kids already go during the summer because getting to a summer meals site can be challenging for many kids. Schools are the most common SFSP feeding site. Additionally, most sites offered activities for kids in addition to meals. Eighty-four percent of sites offered education activities and 77 percent of sites offered organized sports to engage with children. Check out our infographic to learn more facts about SFSP.

Another way to increase and maintain regular attendance at summer meals sites is to serve nutritious and appetizing meals. That is why we launched our “Turnip the Beet” awards in 2016 to recognize outstanding summer meals program sponsors who have distinguished themselves with high quality meals that are appetizing, appealing, and wholesome. We recently announced the award winners from the summer of 2018. There were a total of 118 winners, including gold-winning Michigan-based Waterford School District, which hosted “Two Bite Tuesdays” as well as regular taste tests during which participants would try new recipes, as well as foods from the site’s garden and the local farmers’ market.

SFSP sites serve up to 900 children per day. However, often kids and parents don’t even know there is a site close to them serving summer meals! USDA has created many tools to help people find summer meals site close by, such as:

  • Online Summer Meals Site Finder – type in an address or zip code to find the nearest summer meals site.
  • Call 1-866-348-6479 and ask for the nearest place serving summer meals.
  • Text “summer meals” to 97779

We hope that individuals and organizations will help spread the word about summer meals and site finder tools to make sure kids get the nutrition they need to keep growing and thriving over the summer, helping them be ready to learn when school starts up again.

USDA Kicks Off Summer Meals
Children harvest vegetables from a garden.