School's Out: Implementing Successful Summer Meals

USDA’s Summer Meal Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option can help bridge the gap to provide free, nutritious meals to lower-income children, 18 years old and younger, when school is not in session. The USDA has guidelines and resources to help successfully implement and publicize Summer Meal Programs, go to to find them. These resources include Summer Meals Toolkits which describe the specific steps on how to set up Summer Meals sites, and videos to help train SFSP sponsors, sites, and volunteers.

Share Our Strength is addressing child hunger by supporting Summer Meals Programs across the U.S. They have developed  “Best Practices” resources, which include evidence-based results and practical information from successful Summer Meal Programs. In order to implement Summer Meal Programs, many times additional monetary resources are needed to meet program goals and offer concurrent programming. Share Our Strength provides grants to nonprofit organizations, schools, and other organizations to help with program establishment and promotional efforts.  Individuals can access the Share or Strength resources to take action in their community by following the links below. or

In order to maximize the capacity to implement a successful Summer Meals Program, partnering with another community organization such as a school, library, or summer camp is recommended.  Partners have the ability to help in a number of different ways besides SFSP administration. For example, a partner can support an activity at a Summer Meals site, thus increasing the attendance.  For example, many summer meals programs are run at public parks, pools, and libraries.  Read USDA’s “Tips for Success:  Building Partners for Summer Food” at for more examples of potential partner relationships.

Below are some additional resources from the state-level that may be used as a guide to successfully implement Summer Meal Programs:

Texas Department of Agriculture:

Iowa Department of Education:

DC Hunger Solutions:


Lara Latimer, PhD, Cornell University Food and Brand Lab