Free meals from Summer Food Service Program.

When school lets out, many children need a place to get their meals from. Students all over the nation rely on the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs but these services do not operate during the summer vacation months. So this is where the Summer Food Service Program can help. As when the school year ends thousands of children and teenagers lose access to free and low-cost school lunches and breakfasts. This federal government funded USDA benefit will ensure kids are still able to get the nutritional support they need near them.

Almost 30 million children eat school breakfast or lunch every day during the year. Of this number, about one half receive their meals either for free or at a reduced price due to low household income, job losses, or some type of financial hardship. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free meals (breakfast and/or lunch or snacks) to children from these low income families during their school vacations and breaks.

Studies show that lack of healthy meals and overall nutrition during the summer months can impact a student’s ability to learn and retain information during the school year, and it can even set up a cycle for poor performance at the start of the year. Other issues that can arise from lack of nutritious food include children can become susceptible to illness and other medical conditions. The federal government USDA Summer Food Service Program, or SFSP, will help ensure children of all ages have access to the food they need during the summer.

Families and children losing access to school meals is plainly evident at many soup kitchens and food pantries. These centers will almost always see increased participation and requests among children once the school year lets out. To try to deal with and address the increased summertime need and demands for assistance, food banks will recruits and partner with other centers such as churches, soup kitchens and food pantries to distribute Summer Meals to children at their sites near you. The various non-profit food banks assist participating programs with community outreach and activities to promote participation. They will also facilitate implementation of the various services.





Where children can get free meals or snacks during the summer near them

The SFSP program will provide free meals to children over the summer. Depending on your county and city, the free food and meals are distributed at locations region wide, including parks, schools, pools, community centers, some churches and possibly even libraries. Nutritious breakfasts, lunches, suppers, and snacks may be provided. Many cities and towns also try to increase awareness of the Summer Meals by partnering with non-profit agencies and organizations like the Salvation Army. For a location near you for a free summer meal, dial 1-866-348-6479.

National and regional food banks supply information about the SFSP programs. They may have the locations of SFSP distribution sites and centers, and can help guide families to local networks of regional and national food assistance programs, such as SNAP or WIC. The USDA works with local partner agencies bear students to help feed them.





The centers that participate in the summer meal program feed children at meal service sites. They are located in a variety of local and convenient settings, including playgrounds, schools, recreation centers, parks, churches, community centers, Indian reservations, day camps, migrant centers, residential summer camps, or housing projects. The sites may prepare their own meals, contract for them with a local food service management company, or directly purchase meals through an agreement with an area school.

Other benefits of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

A key objective is to provide an opportunity to continue a student’s/child's social, educational and physical development while providing students of all ages free or discounted nutritious meals. This is a federal government funded program that is operated nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered at the State level, and it helps lower income children return to school ready to learn.

SFSP was created to ensure that teenagers and children in low-income areas continue to receive nutritious snacks and meals during long school vacations, when they do not have access to school lunch or breakfast. Qualifications normally include the following.

  • When at summer or day camps, only the children who are normally eligible for free and reduced-price meals may receive free food or meals from SFSP.
  • Applying children need to be 18 years of age or younger, they need to stop by an approved distribution site or go to an eligible enrolled site.
  • Generally the free food and meals are provided on a first-come and served basis. There may be breakfast, lunches or even both meals served each day.
  • Some exceptions can be made for low income teenagers or people over age 18. If they disabilities they may also receive free meals. There is no risk into inquiring into the program as maybe you would fit into the exception category.




To get information on the USDA Summer Food Service Program, including locating meal sites and distribution centers in your community near you, dial the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY. Customer service representatives can provide information on the program, how to apply, and where people can find pantries and meal sites in your region.


By Jon McNamara

“Related and Sponsored Links” are listed below.




Contact Us

About Us


Privacy policy

Financial Literacy