Start a Summer Meals Program

Woman distributes food to children

Become a Sponsor

A sponsor administers the Summer Food Service Program (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). Often sponsors prepare their own meals for the SFSP, however they may also purchase vended meals from the local school food service authority or a private caterer. An entity interested in becoming a SFSP sponsor must request an application from DESE.

Become a Site

A summer meal site is a location at which free meals are served to children 18 years old and under. SFSP sites are frequently held at pools, parks, schools, community centers, religious organizations, and other locations. All organizations or entities interested in becoming a SFSP site should contact CNOP. While sponsors are responsible for coordinating the financial and administrative aspects of the program, SFSP site supervisors are responsible for serving meals while following USDA guidelines and recording the number of meals served. CNOP can help determine if a site is eligible. Another way to determine eligibility is to use the USDA Capacity Builder Map.

Eligibility for Summer Meal Sites

Summer meal sites can either be "open" or "closed:"

  • Please note that area eligibility requirements have been waived through June 30th, 2022. For more information about USDA waivers, visit this page or contact CNOP.
  • Open or "area" sites provide free meals to any child, no registration required. Open sites must be located in eligible areas, which can be determined using CNOP's eligibility map. Areas are eligible if they draw attendance from a school in which 50 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, or if census data shows that at least half of children in the area live in a household whose income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Closed or "enrolled" sites limit meal participation to children enrolled in the site's programs. For example, a month-long arts program with 25 registered participants would be considered a closed site since the meals are served only to  those 25 children. Similar to open sites, closed sites must either be located in an eligible area, or 50 percent of the children who attend the site must be eligible for free and reduced-price school meals.

Meals and Reimbursement Rates

All food served as part of the SFSP must meet federal nutrition guidelines. 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 DESE. Reimbursement rates are updated every year. The 2021 per meal reimbursement rates can be found here


Learn more: 

Start a Summer Meals Program 

Promote Summer Eats

Farm to Summer Eats

Find Summer Eats Materials

Find a Summer Eats Meal Site

Summer Eats Conference