USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provided a record number of meals in fiscal year 2020

This is a line graph showing monthly trends in meals serviced by USDA's Summer Food Service Program in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.

USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) typically provides nutritious meals to children and teens in low-income areas during unanticipated school closures between October and April or when schools are not in session, such as during summer break. In fiscal year (FY) 2020, the program served a record number of nearly 1.3 billion meals to children and teens, 8.9 times more than in FY 2019. Whereas participation in the program typically peaks in July, the SFSP in 2020 provided the most meals in May and continued to serve more than 200 million meals in September. The Government spent $4.1 billion on the program in FY 2020, up from $475 million in FY 2019. This increase reflects the expanded need for food assistance during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the Federal response to meet that need. The closure of schools and childcare providers beginning in March 2020 disrupted the distribution of meals through what are typically the largest of USDA’s Child Nutrition Programs: the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. In response, USDA issued waivers expanding the scope and coverage of the SFSP by allowing qualifying organizations to serve free meals throughout the year and in all areas, among other changes. This chart is based on data available as of January 2021 that is subject to revision and made available on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Summer Food Service Program section of the Child Nutrition Programs topic page, updated July 2021.

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