Summer Food
Service Program

Status Report

June 2019


The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free meals and snacks to children in eligible communities during the summer months.

Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and New York State (NYS), the program is intended to ensure children do not go hungry when school is out of session and school meals are not available. However, in NYS, the SFSP reaches fewer than one in three students who rely on healthy school meals, creating a nutritional gap for many low-income children.

During the 2016 -2017 school year, nearly 1.1 million low-income school-age children across NYS relied on free or reduced-priced school lunch. That number accounts for more than 75% of total school lunches (1.4M) eaten on an average school day in March 2017, and it is a number that has been increasing over the past several years. During July 2017, the SFSP reached nearly 287,000 children, approximately 27% of the low-income students who ate school lunch just a few months prior.

Why do Summer Meals Matter?

Summer meals provide many benefits to children: they provide quality nutrition during the summer months when school meals are not available to fuel academic readiness, they may help curb obesity, and they promote increased positive peer interactions in communities and enrichment programs.

It is widely understood that students lose academic ground over the summer months, and that this loss increases with age through the middle school years. In recent years, this troubling “summer learning slide” phenomenon has placed added focus on the necessity of incorporating meals into summer enrichment programming.

The SFSP also benefits communities: free summer meals for kids and teens offset the limited food budgets of families in low-income communities; meal preparation and service creates summer employment opportunities; meals enhance camp and other summer enrichment programs; and since meals are federally and state funded, millions of dollars are infused into local economies as each summer meal served and claimed for reimbursement draws down public funding.