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Summer Food Service Program

Farmers Markets Bring Farm-Fresh Foods & Fun to Summer Meals

This National Farmers Market Week, we celebrate a growing national trend that exemplifies the power of partnership in achieving common goals. Across the country, sponsors of USDA’s Summer Meals Programs are joining forces with their local farmers markets, realizing a multitude of shared benefits.  These partnerships increase access to the local seasonal bounty the summer months have to offer and help keep kids and their families nourished and active while school is out. Check out how three communities are taking full advantage of all that farmers markets during the summer months!

Our Students Have a Voice in School Meals

One key strategy in helping schools serve nutritious and appealing meals that students will eat is to simply ask, “What do you need?”

On April 9, USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) asked this simple yet compelling question to nearly 40 4-H delegates at the 2016 National 4-H Conference in Chevy Chase, Md. USDA FNS hosted the roundtable session, “Healthy Eating in Schools:  A Dialogue with USDA Food & Nutrition Service,” in an effort to give eager student leaders a chance to share their views on school meals and healthy eating. Participants came from all across the U.S. states and territories, from Nebraska to North Carolina, and as far away as Puerto Rico and a U.S. Air Force base in Japan.

As Summer Draws Near, We Set Lofty Goals to Feed More Kids than Ever

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

You can tell by the smiles on the faces of Bradley, Alex, and Chris Lanthier that a well-fed kid is a happy kid! It’s smiling faces like these that make my job as Rural Housing Service Administrator so rewarding - these guys look as if they don’t have a care in the world. USDA Rural Housing Service is making a difference by helping kids, just be kids!

Yet it’s important to remember: unlike kids, hunger doesn’t take a vacation during the summer. Unfortunately, child hunger peaks during the summer months when kids from low-income families no longer have access to school meals.

New State of the Art Food Bank Opens in West Texas

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

West Texans fighting food insecurity have a new resource to combat hunger. The West Texas Food Bank held the grand opening of their new 60,000 square foot location during a recent ceremony in Odessa.

In operation since 1985, the West Texas Food Bank saw the need for food grow exponentially in their communities, requiring them to expand their services. The new facility replaces the East 2nd Street building, and is a first-of-its-kind in West Texas. Thanks to generous donations from area philanthropists committed to fighting hunger locally, the facility will help meet the nutritional needs of more than 31,000 people living in poverty or food insecurity in Midland County, while serving 18 other West Texas counties.  According to the West Texas Food Bank Executive Director, Libby Campbell, the new facility offers more program opportunities for seniors, children, families and the homeless.

Outstanding Summer Sites Offer Tips for Improving Summer Meal Programs

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, we have seen some extraordinary summer meal programs sponsors and partners. Here are three key tips we learned from some stellar partners in the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region that other programs can follow to ensure successful summer programs next year!

USDA Foods Help Nourish a Culture

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska.

Traditional foods are of significant value to Native American and Alaskan Natives today.  The same foods that have been used to feed our ancestors not only feed our bodies, but they feed our spirit. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes this importance and works diligently to offer program and partnership opportunities that help enhance traditional food access in Indian Country.

If your tribal community is looking to donate traditional foods to serve at food service programs at public or non-profit facilities, the Service of Traditional Foods in Public Facilities memo provides guidance for organizations and institutions operating under the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Child Nutrition Programs (CNP). The acceptance of these donations is largely possible due to changes in the 2014 Farm Bill that defines traditional foods as including wild game meat, fish, seafood, marine mammals, plants, and berries.

During National Farm to School Month, USDA Celebrates Grantees' Accomplishments and a New Office

Along with brilliantly colored hard squash, crisp apples, and hearty greens, October ushers in National Farm to School Month, a time to raise awareness about and celebrate the impact of farm to school programs on children, producers, and communities. Since 2012, I have directed USDA’s Farm to School Program, guiding the work of a small but enthusiastic team at the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Each October, we have more to celebrate: more USDA funds awarded to schools, agencies, and organizations to advance these programs; more money ending up in the pockets of local producers; more school gardens in which students can learn and grow; and more healthful school meals that feature local foods.

A new report, announced by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack earlier this month, helps quantify our celebration. An analysis of grant-making over the last three years reveals that USDA has awarded $15.1 million through 221 grants in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fifty percent of funded projects included expanding healthy menu options offered in the cafeteria; 46 percent included training for food service staff about menu planning, meal preparation, and cooking with local and regional foods; and 65 percent included nutrition education activities. These funds have helped 12,300 schools improve nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities.

Service, Partnership Key to Summer Meals Success

The following guest blog highlights the partnership between USDA and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which leverages the service-oriented energy of AmeriCorps summer associates to expand and enhance USDA summer meal sites for children in low-income communities.  USDA summer meals fill the hunger gap for the over 21-million children across the country who rely on school meals during the school year.  This blog details the summer associates’ experiences, as narrated by an AmeriCorps VISTA program specialist who was integral to the partnership.

By Mark Wilson, Program Specialist, Corporation for National and Community Service

“Sports, games, nutrition, friends and fun!” is how Andrea Wilkinson described her summer service in Reno, Nev. From June to August, 579 AmeriCorps VISTA summer associates like Andrea served in 42 states and the District of Columbia, making the summer meals program more fun and beneficial for families.

Partners Make Access to Meals for Children Possible Year Round in Kentucky

Kids in bright summer play clothes come running with smiles and laughter as the white cargo van rolls to a stop near a playground and the rear doors swing open. No, it’s not the ice cream truck. It is something better – the lunch ladies from Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) Community Action Center delivering bagged lunches filled with fruit, sandwiches, juice and milk.

Volunteers and staff at KCEOC work hard to feed as many Eastern Kentucky kids as possible during the summer in three USDA StrikeForce counties: Knox, Whitley and Laurel.

New Web Application Helps Families Find Summer Meals in Their Communities

USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, a federally-funded, state-administered program, last year served more than 187 million meals to children in low-income areas to ensure that they continued to receive proper nutrition throughout the summer when schools were closed. But that number represents just a small fraction of the children who are eligible to receive summer meals. Many families may not have taken advantage of the program because they didn’t know where meals were served near them.

That’s why this summer we here at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service recently launched the Summer Meal Site Finder, a new web and mobile tool that allows parents, teens and children in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, to type in their address, city, state or zip code to get a list of the summer meal sites closest to them.  The tool also provides information about each of the 45,000 sites already registered for this summer, including their operating hours, contact information, and directions to each site.