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While many may have fond childhood memories of carefree summer days filled with sunshine and fun, the story is much different for thousands of at-risk children in low-income households today. Many kids experience greater food insecurity during the summer months because they may not have access to regular meals as they do during the school year through public school-provided meals. In addition to health ramifications caused by hunger, food insecurity causes anxiety-filled days and nights for both the children and their parents.
The good news is foodservice directors and nonprofit youth program leaders can minimize hunger for these kids by participating in one of two federally reimbursed USDA programs. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) reimburse schools and nonprofit organizations for providing meals free of charge to children under 18 years of age in low-income urban and rural areas.
The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program is open to schools, as well as nonprofit organizations that serve children through youth enrichment programs and summer camps. Under the Summer Food Service Program, eligible schools and nonprofit organizations must be in geographic areas where at least 50 percent of children receive free or reduced-price school lunches. The USDA provides reimbursement for each meal served that meets USDA federal nutritional guidelines for child nutrition programs. Reimbursement rates are available here.
Here’s how it works: Foodservice directors and nonprofit organizations are “sponsors” of the Summer Food Service Program. In addition to managing the foodservice program for your own school or organization, you can also oversee additional “feeding sites” within your SFSP-approved geographic vicinity. As the sponsor, you provide meals to all feeding sites and report meal counts to the USDA for reimbursement. Feeding sites must operate under the same USDA rules and guidance for the Summer Food Service Program as the sponsor and are responsible for raising awareness of the free meals in their respective areas of service.
The USDA’s Seamless Summer Option (SSO) is designed for schools that serve meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) during the school year. It allows school foodservice directors to follow the same operational guidelines for foodservice during the school year and summer, making the program seamless for schools. It is a convenient option for schools to offer summer meals, however, the reimbursement rate for Seamless Summer meals is at the rate for a free lunch under the National School Lunch Program, which is less than the Summer Food Service Program reimbursement rate.
This chart developed by the USDA outlines the differences between the Summer Food Service Program, Seamless Summer Option and National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The USDA offers a wide range of additional resources, such as a Summer Food Service Program Fact Sheet (in English and in Spanish) and Summer Meals Toolkit. Contact your state agency for details and instructions to apply for the programs.
Lunch menu planning for child nutrition programs can be daunting, especially if your background doesn’t include nutrition and dietetics. USDA rules for federal nutrition programs are quite complicated. They have specific nutrition requirements like weekly limits for calories, fat and sodium, and daily requirements for whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
NutriStudents K-12 greatly simplifies the menu-planning process for foodservice directors and youth program leaders. We are experts in complying with the USDA nutritional and operational guidelines and can help you run a profitable, federally compliant child nutrition program. Our menus and recipes are certified by a registered dietitian to comply with all USDA nutritional guidelines. We are also the only provider that offers a 45-week rotation of student-approved lunch menus for clients participating in the National School Lunch Program. These same menus are also available to our clients participating in the Seamless Summer Option. You can use our menu weeks exclusively or in combination with your own and in any order you choose. Whether you operate a 4-day, 5-day or 7-day a week program, NutriStudents K-12 can help. Every entree, whether it’s a perennial student favorite or a newer food trend, has been tested and approved by kids of varying ages and diverse backgrounds. And, last but certainly not least, we can help you operate more efficiently and cost effectively.
You can help fill a critical need for kids this summer by providing nutritious meals. The USDA and state agencies are currently seeking organizations like yours to offer these summer programs for breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Schedule a demo with us today to see how we can simplify your foodservice program!