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Summer Food Service Program Sponsor FAQs

EO Guidance Document #
Resource type
Guidance Documents
  1. How does SFSP work?
  2. Who can sponsor SFSP?
  3. What is a site?
  4. Who is eligible to get free meals?
  5. How many reimbursable meals can be served?
  6. How are SFSP meals prepared?
  7. How else can you help?


1. How does SFSP work?

SFSP is administered at the Federal level by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). FNS decides overall program policy and publishes regulations and payment rates. State education agencies administer SFSP in most states. Other state agencies may also be assigned to run the program.

The state agency approves sponsor applications, conducts training of sponsors, monitors SFSP operations, and processes program payments. Sponsors sign agreements with their state agencies to run the program.

SFSP reimburses approved sponsors for serving meals that meet Federal nutritional guidelines. Sponsors receive payments from USDA, through their state agencies, based on the number of meals they serve. All meals are served free to eligible children.

2. Who can sponsor SFSP?

Sponsors must be organizations that are fully capable of managing a food service program. To be a sponsor, you must follow regulations and be responsible, financially and administratively, for running your program.

Which types of organizations are eligible to sponsor SFSP?

  • public or private nonprofit schools
  • units of local, municipal, county, tribal, or state government
  • private nonprofit organizations
  • public or private nonprofit camps
  • public or private nonprofit universities or colleges
3. What is a site?

A site is the physical location, approved by the state agency, where you serve SFSP meals during a supervised time period. There are five types of sites:

Your site is: if: based on:
  • at least half the children in the area are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals
  • at least half the children enrolled in the program are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals
  • area eligibility data from the local school or census block group
  • income eligibility statements describing the family's size and income
Closed Enrolled
  • it identified groups of needy children living "pockets of poverty"
  • at least half of the enrolled children qualify for free and reduced-price meals. (Because the site is not open to the community, meals are served free only to enrolled children)
  • income eligibility statements
  • area eligibility data from the local school or census block group
  • it offers a regularly scheduled food service as part of a residential or day camp program
  • an individual child's eligibility for free and reduced-price meals
  • it primarily serves children of migrant workers
  • appropriate certification from a migrant organization
  • it is a college or university participating in the National Youth Sports Program
  • a child's enrollment in NYSP


4. Who is eligible to get free meals?

All children 18 years of age or younger who come to an approved open site or to an eligible enrolled site may receive meals. At camps, only the children who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals may receive SFSP meals. People over age 18 who are enrolled in school programs for persons with disabilities may also receive meals.

5. How many reimbursable meals can be served?

Most sponsors may be approved to receive reimbursement for serving lunch and one other meal service. A small number of sponsors serve breakfast only, or breakfast and snack.

If your site primarily serves migrant children, or you run a residential or day camp, you may be eligible to serve up to three reimbursable meals each day. If you run a camp, you may claim reimbursement only for the meals that are served to a child who qualifies for free and reduced-price meals.

Ask your state agency which types of meals may be served for reimbursement at your proposed sites.

6. How are SFSP meals prepared?

A sponsor may prepare its own meals, purchase meals through an agreement with an area school, or contract for meals with a food service management company (vendor).

If your site has its own kitchen, you may want to prepare meals yourself. If your kitchen is not on the premises, you may still want to prepare your own meals, and then transport them to the site. Meals that you prepare yourself receive a slightly higher rate of reimbursement. You would receive “self-prep” rates, whether you prepare the meals from scratch or purchase the components and assemble the meals yourself.

Many government and private nonprofit sponsors lack the kitchen facilities to prepare meals themselves. In that case, you may arrange to purchase meals from a school or another public or private food supplier with approved meal preparation facilities.

7. How else can you help?

Become a Sponsor - Make an investment in the children in your community. If your organization already provides services to the community, and has capable staff and good management practices to run a food service, you can administer SFSP. As a sponsor, you will:

  • attend your state agency's training
  • locate eligible sites
  • hire, train, and supervise staff
  • arrange for meals to be prepared or delivered
  • monitor your sites
  • prepare claims for reimbursement

Run a Site - Some organizations do not have the financial or administrative ability to run the program, but they can supervise a food service for children, along with recreational or enrichment activities, at a site. If you supervise a site, you will:

  • attend your sponsor's training
  • supervise activities and meal service at your site
  • distribute meals by following SFSP guidelines
  • keep daily records of meals served
  • store food appropriately
  • keep the site clean and sanitary

Be a Vendor - Organizations with kitchens and food service staff, including schools, commercial companies, or public or nonprofit institutions, can participate in SFSP as vendors. Instead of administering or supervising a meal service site, a vendor sells prepared meals under an agreement or a contract with an approved SFSP sponsor.

As a vendor, you will:

  • register with the state agency, if required
  • meet appropriate health and sanitation standards
  • prepare meals meeting Federal nutritional guidelines
  • deliver meals on schedule
  • keep delivery records
  • fulfill the terms of the agreement or contract

Volunteer - Even if your organization cannot take on the responsibilities of a sponsor or a site, you can team up with a sponsor to provide:

Arts and Crafts
Life Skills
Kite Flying

....or any other activity that makes summer fun!

Page updated: March 03, 2022

The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.