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Mapping Tools for Summer Meal Programs

Accurate and trustworthy data is a powerful tool and, when used correctly, invaluable in targeted expansion of USDA’s summer meal programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch Program. Data can be used to strengthen existing programs and to locate new sites by identifying service gaps in communities throughout the country. Data can also be used to identify eligible sites, enhance outreach efforts, and boost the credibility of other summer meal expansion efforts.

Below are four mapping tools designed to assist state agencies, partners and sponsors interested in using data to build summer meal capacity.

Capacity Builder

  • Allows users to search for summer meal sites from the previous summer by zip code, adding “layers” of information, such as free and reduced-price lunch participation rates or area eligibility data.
  • Potential site locations (multi-family housing units, libraries, museums, and schools) can be added to the map, and previous site locations can also be highlighted, helping to prevent site overlap.
  • This tool can also be used to identify locations that are area eligible for participation in other child nutrition programs. The Summer Meal Capacity Builder Demonstration Webcast provides guidance for state agencies interested in using the Capacity Builder to improve their summer meal program.

Area Eligibility Mapper

  • Allows users to confirm eligibility of summer meal sites by accessing census tract and census block group (CBG) data. This tool can also be used to conduct weighted averaging as discussed in SFSP Policy Memorandum “Area Eligibility in Child Nutrition Programs,” published Dec. 1, 2016.
  • Instructions for determining eligibility using these data are also available. The instructions offer two different tools to determine eligibility: the FNS Area Eligibility Mapper and a map developed by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
  • The FRAC map is constructed from the same data files and also may be used to determine eligibility. Additionally, state agencies may request the data file for every CBG and census tract, including Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) codes for Geographic Information System (GIS) efforts, in their state. State agencies also may provide these data to institutions and partners upon request. This tool can also be used to identify locations that are area eligible for participation in other child nutrition programs.

Rural Designation Tool

  • Allows state agencies and sponsors to determine if a proposed site may be designated as rural for purposes of identifying a site as eligible for increased reimbursement in SFSP.
  • To use the map, users must enter the address of the proposed site in the “Find Address or Place” box located on the right side of the screen. By pressing enter, the map will zoom to the location specified. Locations shaded in purple are non-rural; unshaded locations are rural.

Mobile Route Maker

  • This tool is primarily a routing tool for summer meal sponsors, vendors and state agencies that is overlaid on the Capacity Builder. Routing is especially important for less densely populated areas, such as rural areas.
  • This tool will help a variety of audiences allocate resources efficiently and in a cost effective way. Sponsors can identify potential summer sites for mobile feeding by identifying gaps in service in the neediest areas, plan the most efficient monitoring routes, and find routes to local food vendors to create fresh local meals.
  • In addition self-prep central kitchens and vendors can find the best route to deliver meals to each summer meal site. State agencies can also use this tool to plan the most efficient monitoring routes throughout the summer.
Page updated: May 18, 2023