Children need nutritious meals to learn, grow and thrive- even when school is out.

With the Summer Meals Program, children and teens ages 18 and younger, and enrolled students with disabilities up to 21 years old can continue to eat healthy throughout summer AT NO COST.

The USDA works closely with states to ensure that children who receive on free or reduced-price school meals can get the nutrition they need when schools are closed – whether during summer break or unexpected closures during the school year. Through USDA's summer meal programs, approved sites in communities across the country can serve meals to kids at no cost.

How does the program work? 

Summer food service programs are free meals for kids and teens up to 18. They make meals available to kids when school is out in June, July, and August. You may also hear them called free summer meal or lunch programs. 

Kids and teens can just show up during the scheduled meal hours and receive a free meal. Some summer programs provide breakfast and lunch. You don't need to fill out paperwork or show proof of income. Most sites offer meals that can be eaten in-person or on the go. 

Who administers the Program? 

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a federally-funded, state-administered program. USDA reimburses program operators who serve no-cost, healthy meals and snacks to children and teens in low-income areas. Sponsors provide free meals and snacks to children who come to eat at a central site, such as a school or a community center. They receive payments from USDA for the meals and snacks they serve through their State agencies.  Sites may be located in a variety of settings, including schools, parks, community centers, libraries, farmers’ markets, apartment complexes, churches, and migrant centers. Sites may also choose to offer enrichment opportunities for children, such as reading, physical activity, or nutrition education. 

How Can Children and Teens Participate in SFSP?  

Children 18 and younger may receive free meals and snacks at any open SFSP site. Meals and snacks are also available through SFSP to persons with disabilities who are over age 18 and participate in school programs for people with mental or physical disabilities.

How do I find a 2023 summer meal program in my community?


Online- Find a summer site in your community with our online Summer Meal Finder mapping tool.  As of June 8, 2023 the site finder has data for 40 states, and includes: AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV. 

Text- You can also text “Summer Meals” to 914-342-7744. Or, text the word FOOD to 304-304. You’ll get a message with nearby locations

Call- Calling the USDA Hotline at 1-866-348-6479 is another great way to find free summer food service programs in your area. 

Special Programs with Meals

For many of the food banks that serve children facing hunger every day, it’s a priority to make it possible for kids to just be kids. Check out these four examples of ways that summer meal sites are delivering food and fun: 

  • Kids can shop at a farmers’ market built just for them where everything is sold in $1 increments — food bank bucks, that is. The Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County in San Luis Obispo, California, hosts these Children’s Farmers’ Markets monthly, including at meal sites during the summer. While shopping down the line, children can choose to spend their food bank bucks on a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Fifth and sixth graders are the ‘vendors’ — promoting their produce (and often competing with each other to sell the most). Armed with recipe ideas and lessons about healthy eating, the children take their farmers’ market finds home, excited to share the food with their families.  
  • There are pool parties: On hot summer days, nothing feels better as a kid than cannonballing into the local swimming pool, and that’s just what the children who turn to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Harrisburg City, Pennsylvania, can do this summer. Once a week, kids who go to some of the summer meal sites facilitated by the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank head to the public pools, and lunches are delivered there, creating a mini pool party atmosphere.
  • Some meals come with a good book: To help encourage reading over the summer, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee partners with mobile libraries to deliver mobile meals and good reads to rural counties in Northeast Tennessee. Children can check out books from inside the mobile library, and then head outside for a dinner or snack. The mobile libraries travel to kids who can’t access the summer programs because they’re rural, so the libraries serve as the perfect way to meet these sometimes hard-to-reach children.
  • Children aren’t just eating food, they’re learning where it comes from, too: As part of The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri’s Farm to Table Fun Program, children get hands-on experience learning about how their fruits and veggies are grown. A retired science teacher teaches the children about farm-to-table living through activities like planting seeds, reading books about farming and even cooking easy and nutritious snacks. And the food bank is also hosting mini farmers’ markets once a week where kids can pick out produce that they’ve learned about to take home to their families.