Simplified Summer Food Program for Children Now Enrolling

Armen Hareyan's picture

Summer programs that operate in low-income areas or serve primarily low-income children can receive federal funds to provide meals through the new Simplified Summer Food Program.

Schools, local government agencies and private non-profits can participate in the program, which helps ensure that children do not go hungry while out of school during the summer. Other places where children congregate during the summer, such as parks, swimming pools, and low-income housing complexes, can also participate.

The Simplified Summer Food Program removes complicated accounting rules still required in the traditional summer food program. This dramatically cuts paperwork and provides sponsors with the full federal reimbursement for each meal they serve.


To qualify, a site must either be located in a low-income area where 50 percent or more of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, or must serve primarily low-income children, at least half of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.

Most sites can provide up two meals a day through the program. Camps and sites serving primarily migrant children can provide up to three meals a day, but they qualify under slightly different rules.

"We know that children from low-income families will be hungry when their schools are closed, because there is not enough food for them at home," said Cynthia Ervin, coordinator of the program in North Carolina. "During those long summer months, the Summer Food Service Program serves what is too often their only nutritious meal of the day."

"We need more providers to offer this program in their local communities. In a typical year, over 600,000 North Carolina children are eligible for these free meals, but only one in six of those children actually get them. We are hoping to expand the program so that children can continue to get the nutrition they need to grow, play and learn throughout the summer, when they don't have access to regular school lunches and breakfasts," she said. "The new simplified SFSP makes it easier for providers to participate than in the past."

Participating sponsors need to be trained by the middle of April; final applications are due by June 15.