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School lunch in a brown paper bag

More than 229,170 Massachusetts children live in food-insecure households. Without school meals to depend on, food insecurity can rise as the summer approaches. Since 1968, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) has provided food assistance for low-income families in Massachusetts. The program provides free, nutritious meals to children 18 years old and under during school summer vacation at SFSP meal sites. SFSP also offers a wealth of nutrition resources to families across the state.

Who is eligible?

Program eligibility is determined by either school or census data. SFSP meal sites are located in communities with a school at which at least 50% of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Additionally, a community is eligible for the program if at least 50% of the children under 19 years old are at or below 185% of the federal poverty level.

What is the difference between an “open” and “closed” meal site?

An “open” or area site provides free meals to any child at the site; no registration is required. Meal sites may operate as an open/area site if they draw their attendance from a school in which 50 percent of the children enrolled are eligible for free or reduced price school meals.

A “closed” or “enrolled” site limits participation to children enrolled in the site’s program(s). For example, a three-week arts program with 25 registered participants would be considered a closed site since the meals served are only available to the children that are signed up for the program. Eligibility for a closed site is determined by various criteria including school and census data.

Who pays for meals?

For each meal SFSP provides to a child, sponsors receive a per-meal reimbursement. Funding for meals comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but is paid to sponsors by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). A sponsor may be a public school department, local government agency, camp, or private non-profit organization. For-profit entities are not eligible to become SFSP sponsors.

What is a sponsor?

A sponsor administers the SFSP for one or more meal sites. The sponsor is responsible for all financial and administrative aspects of the program.

Sponsors may purchase meals from the local school food service authority or a private caterer. Vendors must prepare meals for the sites according to federal nutrition guidelines as well as local health and sanitation standards.

What kinds of meals are served at the program?

All food served must meet federal nutrition requirements. Meals may be hot, cold, or a combination of both depending on the sponsor’s or vendor’s capabilities.

How do I become a summer meal site location?

Schools, park programs, community agencies, churches, or other entities interested in becoming a SFSP site should contact the Child Nutrition Outreach Program.

How can I get involved?

SFSP is always looking for volunteers and interns to help assist at meal sites. Community specific internships vary based on location and potential duties. Volunteers are welcome to help provide program outreach and promotion in their local community. Contact your local summer meal site for more information.

If your family is in need of food assistance during the summer months, consider the Summer Food Service Program as a resource. Introduce a SFSP site to your community, or volunteer today to ensure children across the state won’t go hungry this summer.

How are you assisting families in need during the summer vacation period? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us at @MassGov

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