Increasing participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs is a top priority in the effort to end childhood hunger. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Share Our Strength, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have supported the expansion of local programs across the country to ensure more communities have summer meal programs in place. This summary gives an overview of the results from a national survey of summer meal sponsors conducted by FRAC and Share Our Strength. It provides insight into how they operate their programs, the challenges they face, and the opportunities for helping them grow their programs.
These findings can help even more communities close the summer hunger gap, which is critically important for low-income children who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the school year but lose access to this critical nutrition when school lets out for summer vacation. Schools, nonprofits, local government agencies and camps across the country provide free summer meals to children through the federally-funded Summer Nutrition Programs- the Summer Food Service Program. Schools have the additional option of providing meals through the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch Program. These sponsors of the Summer Nutrition Programs are critical stakeholders for maintaining and increasing children's access to nutritious meals over the summer months.
FRAC and Share Our Strength developed and piloted the survey in Fall 2013 in Arkansas and Virginia. Based on the pilot, FRAC and Share Our Strength launched a revised survey in February 2014. The survey was distributed to sponsors via email by state agencies, the USDA national and regional offices, statewide advocacy organizations and additional national partners. The survey remained open for six weeks and received 2,294 completed responses, representing sponsors from all 50 states.
Sponsors of both the Summer and Afterschool Nutrition Programs were more likely to have a greater number of sites, to have grown their number of sites since the previous year, to have served 40 or more days during the summer, to have planned to return to the program and increase their number of sites to grow their program, and to have reported minor challenges across the board
Sponsors of the Summer Nutrition Programs are dedicated to creating a healthy and enriching environment for children of low-incomecommunities when school is out for summer vacation, many of whom face increased risk for food insecurity and childhood obesity during thesummer months. By learning more about the experience of sponsoring organizations operating summer meal programs, we can beginto support areas in which growth of the program is possible and enable administrators to better serve their sponsors implementing the programs locally.
The Food Research and Action Center offers tools, guides, and monthly tips to help sponsors and advocates of both the Summer and Afterschool Nutrition Programs start up and maintain successful meal programs. FRAC's Summer Food Year-Round Implementation Calendar and Afterschool Meals Guide can help groups operate programs throughout the year. FRAC's annual "Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation" report is the go-to source of national and state data on participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs. Sponsors and advocates can get more tips and strategies through FRAC's Summer and Afterschool Meal Expansion Network and Newsletter and its monthly Summer and Afterschool Meals Matter calls.
The No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices provides information and resources for advocates and state agencies looking to increase access to Summer and Afterschool meals. There is also a Nutrition Programs Sponsor Center dedicated to helping sponsors access the resources to help grow their programs.
Share Our Strength would like to recognize the Arby's Foundation for their generous support. The Food Research and Action Center would like to recognize the ConAgra Foods Foundation, Hillshire Brands, and the Walmart Foundation. Thank you also to USDA Headquarters and Regional Offices, state agencies around the country, and FRAC and No Kid Hungry partner organizations for helping to promote participation in the survey. And finally, thank you to all of the sponsors who not only serve kids in their community, but took the time to share their experience.
This report was written by Kate Sims with the Food Research and Action Center and Kim Caldwell with Share Our Strength with support from Crystal FitzSimons and Courtney Smith.