Summer is in full swing, and so are summer meal programs. This means during the summer in Texas, children under 19 can receive free meals
Texas summer nutrition programs offer free meals to children during summer vacations or summer school when many children lose access to meals eaten at school. The two summer nutrition programs are the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO), which is part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
SFSP sites must be located in low-income neighborhoods. In Texas, participation is highest during the summer, primarily in June, but Texas is ranked 34th in summer nutrition participation. Only an estimated 13 percent of the eligible population benefits from summer nutrition programs, primarily due to low awareness of summer programs.
Schools, churches, nonprofits, and other sponsors manage sites where children receive summer meals. Sites that prepare their own food or operate in rural areas receive a few additional cents per meal. Schools operating SSO programs receive the same reimbursements as in the National School Lunch Program and SBP. Children attending summer school eat meals at school like they do during the school year, and children in summer programs or in need of food eat meals at sites such as community centers, libraries, schools and churches.
For low-income families, summer programs help kids eat when school is not in session and childhood hunger rates spike. Summer Nutrition Programs are 100 percent federally funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) reimburses organizations using federal funds, the state does not provide any additional funding for operations of a summer program, such as staff or transportation for kids.
TDA administers the summer nutrition programs. Texas law requires school districts where a majority of the student population is eligible for free or reduced-priced school lunches to provide a summer nutrition program. However, many school districts do not implement the programs or seek waivers due to barriers in operation cost. The state can continue to raise awareness and reduce barriers to participation in the program by simplifying paperwork requirements and streamlining application processes.