Summer can be the hungriest time of the year for kids and the most expensive time for parents. Kids and parents who rely on free or reduced – price meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) no longer have access to these meals when school is out for the summer.

To help close this gap, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), also known as the Summer Meals Program serves free meals to kids 18 and under during the summer months, helping families make their food budgets work.

The Summer Meals Program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

Summer meals info graphic

More Information on the Summer Meals Program

Open Versus Closed Sites: Open sites are meal sites where anyone age 18 and under can get a free meal. There is no fee, no sign-up, and no proof of identity or legal status required. Closed sites are meal sites that require sign-up and sometimes require a small fee to participate throughout the summer. These can include summer camps or other programming that you have to register for.

Who is eligible for a Summer Meals Site?

A community is eligible for an SFSP site if 50% or more of the children residing in that area are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. At meal sites, children can receive a healthy meal in a safe place to eat and build friendships. Many sites also offer educational activities and games.

How does the program work?

The USDA funds the Free Summer Meals program. Sponsors are chosen by ISBE. Sponsors figure out a food service to supply the meals, fill out reimbursement forms, pay for the food up front, and choose sites (specific places where kids can go to get meals). These sites provide the food to kids, set up activities, 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.

Sites record how many meals were served per day. That information is then sent to the sponsor, who fills out reimbursement forms. Reimbursement forms are then sent to the USDA through ISBE. Sponsors receive a check from the USDA for all the meals they served.

Visit the Illinois State Board of Education to learn about becoming a Sponsor or Site.