During the school year, 22 million children receive free or reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch Program. When school is out during the summer months, however, only 3.76 million receive free or reduced-price meals through the USDA Summer Food Service Program. This gap of roughly 1 in 6 summer to school-time participants is the result of various barriers experienced only during the summer, including a lack of access to meal sites, insufficient program awareness, and limited resources when schools are closed.
Summer Feeding Program & Local Food Banks
The Feeding America nationwide network of food banks operates several summer food service programs during the summer that seek to close this gap. These programs help meet the needs of low-income children and their families who face hunger in the summer by providing them with nutritious meals and snacks when school is not in session.
Feeding America network summer interventions include summer meal programs like Kids Cafe®, BackPack programs and School Pantry programs. Food banks often employ other innovative meal distribution models, such as Picnic in the Park programs, which are designed to most effectively utilize the resources available to fill the gap in services for children during the summer months.
When school is out of session, community summer food programs make up the majority of food distributed. These programs typically receive reimbursement through the USDA Summer Food Service Program for meals provided to eligible children. Last year, the Feeding America network served 10 million meals to more than 269,500 hungry children through the Summer Food Service Program, which represents a 75% growth in meals distributed from the previous summer.