Summer Food Service Program Overview

kids in playground

What is a summer meal site?

A summer meal site is a location at which free meals are served to and consumed by children 18 years old and under. Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites are frequently held at pools, parks, schools, community centers, religious organizations, and other locations.

Kids Blowing Bubbles

What is an open/area site?

An 'open' or 'area' site provides free meals to any child at the site. No registration is required to attend the meal site. 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. Census data may also be used to document that the site is located in an area where at least half of the children in the area live in a household whose income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. To find out whether a site is located within an eligible area, contact the Child Nutrition Outreach Program or use the Food Research and Action Center’s Summer Food Target Mapper.

Indoor Basksetball Program



What is a closed/enrolled site?

A 'closed' or 'enrolled' site limits meal site participation to children enrolled in the site's program(s). For example, a 3 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. Site eligibility for a closed/enrolled site is determined in one of three ways.

Similar to open/area sites, school data or census data may be used to determine that at least half of the children in the area live in households whose income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. If the site does not meet this criteria, then 50 percent or more of the children who attend the site must be eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals for the program to qualify as an SFSP site. Closed/enrolled sites may document this by either requesting meal benefit eligibility information from the district’s school nutrition director or collect income eligibility forms from each of the site participants.

Woman at Desk

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. 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. Sponsor responsibilities include the following tasks: hiring, training, and supervising program staff, monitoring sites, arranging for meals to be prepared and delivered to sites, and submitting reimbursement claims to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Sponsors may prepare meals for their sites or hire a vendor to do so

Sandwich and carrots

What is a vendor?

If a sponsor is unable to prepare their own meals for SFSP sites, s/he may purchase vended meals from the local school food service authority or a private caterer. Vendors prepare meals for the sites according to federal nutrition guidelines as well as local health and sanitation standards.

One Dollar Bill

Who pays for the meals?

For every SFSP meal served to a child, sponsors receive a per meal reimbursement. The funding for these meals comes from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but it is paid to the sponsors by the DESE. Reimbursement rates are updated every year. The 2017 per meal reimbursement rates for all states except Alaska and Hawaii are as follows:


Summer Food Service Program 2017 Reimbursement Rates (Combined)


Rural or Self Prep Sites

All Other Types of Sites




Lunch or Supper







Dollar signs

How much does the vendor charge the sponsor for meals?

Sponsors and vendors usually negotiate the meal charge based on a number of factors. Since the federal per meal reimbursement rate is intended to cover both the operating and administrative costs involved in running the SFSP, the sponsor must determine how much of the reimbursement to allocate to food costs. Similarly, the vendor must assess the cost of preparing, packaging, and possibly transporting the meals.



What is the food like?

All food served as part of the SFSP must meet federal nutritional 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 site?

Schools, park programs, community agencies, churches, or other entities interested in becoming a SFSP site should contact the Child Nutrition Outreach Program. CNOP can help determine if a site is eligible.  To also determine eligibility, check out FRAC's Summer Food Geo-Mapping program.


Handing Apple to Girl

How do I become a sponsor?

Community agencies, churches, city Parks and Recreation Departments, or other non-profit organizations interested in becoming a SFSP sponsor must request an application from the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by contacting Amy Socolow at 781-338-6488.