Summer Food Support: What is SFSP?

by tempuser

Millions of American children depend on free or subsidized meals during the school year, yet what happens when summer arrives? Are kids just out of luck completely? Nope! That’s not the case! Enter the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a crucial initiative aimed at addressing this issue. This program is designed with the goal of helping eligible recipients during the summertime through food assistance. It’s important to understand this program because your household may be able to benefit from it!

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Overview: A Nutritious Lifeline for Kids

The USDA set up the SFSP in 1975 to make sure children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds could still have access to healthy meals during their summer. The USDA takes charge of administering SFSP at the federal level. However, state agencies are responsible for managing the program at the local level to ensure things run smoothly near you.

Who Can Participate and Sponsor an SFSP Site?

Great news! Children that are younger than 18 years old can benefit from this opportunity. There are even cases where those older than 18 years old can benefit from this program. This is only an option if  they are a part of school programs for people that have disabilities either mentally or physically. 

In order to provide support, organizations need to receive sponsorships. This will result in them getting reimbursed for the food they serve through this program. To be eligible for sponsorship, these organizations must:

  • Have financial stability and administrative capability
  • Have a strong commitment to serving nutritious meals to kids during summer months
  • Fulfill all USDA guidelines & regulations related to food safety, meal patterns, etc.

Qualifying Open Sites and Closed Enrolled Sites

Let’s dive into some popular types of sites for SFSP: open site locations and closed enrolled sites, each with their own set of requirements.

Criteria for Open Site Locations

An open spot has to serve a place where at least half of the students acquire free or discounted lunches from NSLP during their academic year. The area must be low-income. This ensures that meal services reach children in need effectively. 

Requirements for Closed Enrolled Sites

Closed enrolled sites cater to specific groups like summer camps, or those who do not live in low-income areas. To qualify as a closed enrolled site, at least 50% of participants are eligible for free and reduced-price meals 

FAQs in Relation to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

When learning about this program for the first time, it can feel a bit overwhelming to understand. There are some common frequently asked questions that you may have when it comes to this support opportunity! 

When and Where Does the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Operate?

The program operates at various locations such as schools, parks, and community centers, partnering with local organizations during the summer months when school is not in session. These local organizations can include churches and recreation centers to serve breakfasts, lunches, snacks, or suppers across multiple sites throughout the city.

Why are summer meals important?

Summer meals are crucial for maintaining good nutrition among children who rely on school meal programs during regular academic sessions. They help combat hunger and promote healthy growth!

Alternative Food Programs to Help

While SFSP can be beneficial, it isn’t the only food assistance program out there that can help. Other programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are great alternatives!

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

In the United States, there is a federal assistance program called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The SNAP program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and run by state and local organizations, gives qualifying low-income people and families money to buy food. Each month, recipients are given an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that works like a debit card and may be used to purchase approved food items from eligible businesses. Benefits that one can acquire vary depending on a number of variables. Contact your state agency if you want to apply for this program.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

WIC is a federal assistance program in the United States that provides special supplemental nutrition for women, infants, and children. This program’s goal is to protect low-income recipients’ health. These recipients include nutritionally vulnerable infants, young children under the age of five, postpartum women, and pregnant women. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees this program. It offers nourishing foods, nutrition instruction, assistance with breastfeeding, and recommendations for medical treatment and other social services. 

Other Programs to Consider

While there are programs that focus on helping with food, that may not be the only program you want to consider. That’s because your household may be able to benefit from other federal support opportunities. Some programs worth looking into include:


In conclusion, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a helpful program that some people can benefit from in America. It aims to fill the gap for low-income children who rely on school meals during the academic year. The program can do this by providing free meals and snacks during summer months when schools are typically closed. There are other food assistance programs worth considering like SNAP and WIC.

SNAP provides a broader safety net by offering eligible low-income individuals and families with benefits to purchase food year-round. Meanwhile, WIC targets a specific demographic—low-income pregnant women, postpartum women, and children up to age five—providing nutritious foods, education, and support to ensure a healthy start in life. These programs, while unique in their approach, collectively reflect a national commitment to combating food insecurity and malnutrition. There may even be alternative programs that can help. Understanding these programs and the different support they offer is crucial for those in need!

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