Summer Food Service Program

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provided meals to 4.7 million children each day across more than 37,000 sites in July of 2020, the month when the program’s operations typically peak. Overall, throughout fiscal year (FY) 2020, the SFSP served about 1.3 billion meals and snacks at a cost of $4.1 billion to USDA. The number of meals served through SFSP and expenditures on the program were 8.9 and 8.7 times greater than in FY 2019, respectively.

These increases can be attributed to rising food needs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and USDA’s response to meet those needs, which included waivers expanding the scope and coverage of SFSP. The program expanded rapidly in the early months of the pandemic, serving about 564.4 million meals from March through May 2020. Comparatively, only 1.2 million meals were served over the same period in 2019.

USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers SFSP sites. SFSP sites include schools, camps, parks, playgrounds, housing projects, community centers, churches, and other public sites where children gather in the summer. Typically, sites are eligible to offer free USDA-funded meals and snacks if:

  • The 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; or
  • Half or more of the children served by the site meet this income criterion (see FNS's Summer Food Service Program).

In FY 2020—in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—USDA waived these restrictions, allowing for the distribution of free meals through SFSP in all areas. Many children also obtained free meals through the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs (see FNS's School Meals). 

All figures based on data available as of January 2021 and subject to revision.

For the latest information on updates to the program during the COVID-19 pandemic see FNS Response to COVID-19.

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