How does SFSP work?

It seems too good to be true- where does the money for Free Summer Meals come from? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds the Free Summer Meals program. The program was created in 1968 to help feed children over the summer.

The USDA delegates this program to the Food and Nutrition Service, an agency of the USDA, who creates the regulations for the program to run efficiently. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) then delegates further to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), who helps find sponsors for summer meals and deals with some of the enforcement of FNS rules. Once sponsors are chosen by ISBE, they are responsible for figuring out what food service they would like to supply the meals and for filling out reimbursement forms. Sponsors pay for the food up front, sometimes through grants, and expect to be reimbursed for those meals. Sponsors then choose sites- specific places where kids can go to get meals. These sites provide the food to kids, set up activities for kids, and keep track of how many kids come every day. Sites are strategically located to help serve the greatest number of kids and the areas that need summer food the most.

Kids receive meals at the Summer Meals sites, and the site records how many meals were served per day. That information is then sent to the sponsor, who fills out the right forms to get reimbursed. Sponsors get reimbursed per meal served, so they keep track carefully! Once the proper forms are filled out, they are sent to the USDA through ISBE, and the sponsors get sent a check from the USDA for all the meals they served. For more information and updates on Summer Meals, friend us on facebook at SummerMealsIllinois, follow us on twitter at @SummerMealsIL , or visit We hope to see you at a Summer Meals site this summer!!

2018 Summer Meal Grant Application Open

February 21, 2018  The Summer Meals Program grants cycle has opened! Grants will help organizations expand access to and participation in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) supported summer meal programs. To learn more about the Summer Food Service Program visit the USDA’s website.   Mini-grants up to $5,000 are to be used for equipment, personnel, transportation, and other […]

Filling the Gap with Summer Meals

August 10, 2017Marcus “Marco” Halsey offers the youth of North Lawndale “a hug and an opportunity” with Summer Meals. Halsey is the CEO and Founder of Generating Adolescent Productivity (G.A.P.), a Benevolence Foundation located in the B.T. Little Center in Chicago’s North Lawndale community. “As a Benevolence Foundation, we are about giving back to the community,” said […]

No Kid Leaves Hungry

July 20, 2017The Summer Meals Kenneth Cherry is able to offer kids at sites in Evanston are a far cry from the “choke sandwiches” he remembers eating as a kid. The City of Evanston operates seven Summer Meals sites (Fleetwood – Jourdain Center, James Park, Kingsley School, Mason Park, McGraw YMCA, Oakton School, and the Robert Crown […]

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