Summer Meals: 5 Things to Research Now for Summer 2016


Summer 2015 may just be getting started, but it’s actually the perfect time to begin mapping out your strategies for starting or expanding your Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) for next year. Take advantage of the timing to review what you’re doing and where there is untapped potential. Visit neighboring communities to explore what they are doing to serve low-income students who truly need this valuable meals program. If you can get a head start on the fundamentals now, you won’t have to worry about doing so in the height of the school year, making it easier to ensure that all plans will be solidly in place by the time next summer rolls around.


  1. Determine if you’re going to be a sponsor or a vendor (or both). The sponsor of an SFSP incurs most of the financial and administrative responsibility (including site monitoring, training and reimbursement claims), while a vendor’s primary responsibility is to provide the actual meal (preparation, delivery and service). You might choose to take one just one of these roles or you might do both at different sites throughout the community. If you’re interest is primarily in being a vendor—or adding vendor contracts in addition to your own sponsorship sites—research other organizations that are current or potential SFSP sponsors; these might be a government agency (such as a parks and recreation department), a private organization (perhaps a camp or church) or a non-profit (a food pantry or other advocacy group).
  2. Discover possible serving locations. Spend the summer scouting out areas where children naturally congregate while out of school. Options include school playgrounds, camps, churches, parks and public housing complexes. There are guidelines to offering the SFSP at different types of sites, though, and your state agency will determine if the proposed locations are eligible.
  3. Figure out efficient and innovative ways to deliver and serve the food. If you want to invest in special equipment or transportation to improve your SFSP participation reach—for example, SNA President Julia Bauscher’s Louisville, Ky., district is among those that have outfitted a school bus for this purpose—now is the time to get the ball rolling. Don’t forget about food safety!
  4. Identify partners to support your program. Grant-makers, donors or corporate sponsors can help make the program possible by filling the gaps for funding and supplies and assisting with marketing, as well as providing enrichment activities. Scout out potential donors and partners in the form of foundations, corporations and individual supporters.
  5. Ask plenty of questions! Find out if other school nutrition directors in the area have experience with summer feed programs. Contact them for specific advice about serving in your state or region.

Of course, there are a number of moving cogs when it comes to implementing or expanding an SFSP. SNA, with support from the National Watermelon Promotion Board, developed a handy toolkit that can help you put all the pieces together for a successful program. Download it at


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