Start a Program
- Consult Oregon Department of Education Summer Food Program for program news and forms.
- Contact Barbara Cracknell, Nutrition Specialist, Oregon Department of Education, (503) 947-5911
- Not sure where to start? Contact Lesley Nelson, Child Nutrition Outreach Specialist - Portland Metro, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, (503) 595-5501, ext. 304 or Rose Walker, Child Nutrition Outreach Specialist - Rural ext. 324
About the Program
The Summer Food Service Program for Children (SFSP) was created in 1968 to provide funds for organizations to serve meals to low-income children when school is not in session. The program serves all children and youth 18 and under when school is out for summer break. No application or proof of income is needed to participate.
Funding for meals is provided by the USDA in designated high-need areas. Meal sites are hosted at a variety of locations, including parks, schools and churches.
Benefits to Families
During the school year, thousands of Oregon children depend on free or reduced price meals. When school ends, so does this important resource. SFSP helps fill the nutritional gap.
Healthy Nutrition: Meals meet strict nutrition standards including a balance of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. These free lunches (and sometimes breakfasts too) provide an important resource to many families. Some sites will also sell meals to parents, or provide free meals to parent volunteers.
Summer Enrichment: Children of working parents can face long days with little enrichment during the summer, and childcare or summer camps can be very expensive. Many SFSP meal sites also offer programming such as arts & crafts, music, and outdoor recreation. For some communities, these sites are the only supervised summer activities available to low-income children.
Benefits to Summer Programs
Sustainable Funding: Because meals are reimbursed, summer programs can save thousands of dollars while feeding children and providing safe, enriching activities. Unlike most private grants or donations, funding is guaranteed year to year as part of a federal entitlement program.
Attracts Participants: Meals can act as a draw for more children, encouraging higher attendance to drop-in and structured programs, and can increase community awareness and support for programming.
How the Program Works
Program Eligibility Requirements
Programs are operated by schools (public or private non-profit), government agencies, non-profits, faith-based organizations, public or private non-profit camps, universities or colleges. To be an open site, your program must be located within the boundary of a school where at least 50% of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Some sites that don't meet that requirement may also be able to qualify based on census data, subsidized housing statistics, individual income of families in their program, or other factors. Local and federal housing authority residences automatically qualify as eligible.
Application and Training Deadlines
Organizations considering applying must attend training in late February or early March, and applications are due on April 15th. Even if you've missed the deadline this year, it's never too early to start planning for next year!
If you work with children during the summer but don't have capacity to be an SFSP sponsor, you still may be able to work with an existing sponsor in your area to serve meals to your participants.
Many summer food sponsors are willing to provide food for other programs if those programs meet the requirements and will provide staff and a place to serve the food.
Sponsors' responsibilities include:
- Preparing or purchasing meals
- Serving meals (or arranging for them to be served)
- Tracking income and expenditures
- Ensuring that program regulations are met
- Handling reimbursements
Find Summer Food in Oregon
Project Summer - Find a summer food program in your area.