USDA’s Summer Food Service Program served 2.7 million children at 47,463 sites in 2019
In 2019, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provided free USDA-funded meals to approximately 2.7 million children on a typical day in July, the program’s peak month. SFSP meals were served at 47,463 USDA-approved sites. Schools, libraries, camps, playgrounds, housing projects, community centers, churches, and other public locations where children gather in the summer all qualify as USDA-approved sites. “Open sites” operate in areas where at least half of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level. They serve any child who comes to the site, with no requirement for preregistration or income determination. SFSP also operates in “closed sites” that serve enrolled children. Closed sites do not have to be located in low-income areas, but they have to primarily serve low-income children: at least half of the children at the site must be from households with incomes at or below the SFSP threshold. In spring 2020, most American schools closed unexpectedly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To replace school meals, many school districts began providing meals to children under the SFSP, and USDA removed the requirement that open sites operate in low-income areas. USDA addressed concerns created by the pandemic by granting waivers that allowed SFSP sites to distribute “grab and go” meals rather than requiring meals be eaten onsite, to provide meals for multiple days at one time, and to allow parents to pick-up meals for their children. As of June 1, 2020, these waivers remain in effect until August 31, 2020. States may also apply to participate in USDA’s Pandemic EBT (electronic benefits transfer) program. This program provides children who normally receive free or reduced-price school meals with food purchasing benefits equivalent to the value of the meals they would have received if schools were open. A version of this chart appears in the Child Nutrition Programs: Charts topic page on the ERS website.
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