Summer Meals Program

Schools out for summer. Hunger is not. What happens to the more than 125,000 lower-income children in San Diego County who depend upon the free or reduced-price lunches they eat during the school year? They can participate in a Summer Meals Program.

What is the Summer Meals Program?

The Summer Meals Program is officially called the Summer Food Service Program. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to ensure children under the age of 18 do not go hungry during the summer months, when school meals are not available.

The program is typically found at schools, park and recreation sites, lower-income housing developments, or community organizations. 

To find a location near you, check with your local school district, your local park and recreation center, or click here for the State agency.

The Need

Neither learning nor the need for good nutrition ends with the school year. For children who enjoy this program, the food they receive helps keep them healthy, ready to learn, and can contribute to better behavior.

Unfortunately, in San Diego County only 1 in 10 children enrolled in the Free or Reduced-Price Meal Program participate in the Summer Meals program. Low participation in summer meal programs happens for a variety of reasons, such as a lack of nearby sites (which is particularly an issue in rural areas). This puts these children at risk for illness and other health issues. When school resumes in the fall, they are more likely to fall into a cycle of poor performance due to lack of (nutritious) food.

Eligibility and Sites

Summer meals are open to all children under the age of 18. There are no income qualifications, no enrollment, and no paperwork required to participate.

A site is a location where the summer meals are served. Sites can be a school, church, library, park and recreation center or a local community organization, i.e. YMCA. Open Summer Meal sites provide free meals to any child who comes to the site. These sites operate in low-income areas where 50% or more of the children residing in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Click here for a listing of summer meals sites. San Diego Hunger Coalition recommends checking with your local site to confirm the program is still being offered at that location.

If you are interested in learning how to become a site or sponsor contact Robin McNulty at

Facilitated by the San Diego Hunger Coalition, two Summer Meals Task Forces are the leading resource for starting new summer meal sites and improving existing sites, with the goal of increasing participation in summer meals countywide.

These task forces are the forums for San Diego County summer meal sponsors, sites, and community partners to come together to share information and collectively identify and resolve problems around summer and afterschool meals programming and other barriers to participation.

Task Force members meet monthly from January to October to review best practices, discuss specific issues, generate ideas to improve awareness about summer meals, leverage resources to enhance summer and afterschool meal programming, and build capacity among local community based organizations. 

Summer Meals Task Force Goals:

  1. Increase participation at summer and afterschool meal sites
  2. Increase number of summer and afterschool meal sites
  3. Increase enrichment programming at existing sites 

Participating organizations include:

  • Home Start
  • Hope for Housing Foundation
  • Interfaith Services
  • Kitchens for Good
  • Lakeside School District
  • Leah’s Pantry
  • Mid-City CAN
  • National City Community Services Dept.
  • Neighborhood House Association
  • Oceanside Unified School District
  • Outdoor Outreach
  • Project New Village
  • ProKids
  • Reality Changers
  • San Diego Food Bank
  • San Diego State University, WIC
  • San Diego Unified School District
  • San Ysidro School District
  • SAY San Diego
  • Scripps Health
  • South Bay Community Services
  • South Bay Union School District
  • Sweetwater Union High School District
  • U-Can Read
  • UCSD Division of Community Pediatrics
  • UCSD School Wellness
  • United Way of San Diego County
  • University of California Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program
  • Vista Community Clinic
  • YMCA Childcare Resource Services
  • 2-1-1 San Diego
  • American Red Cross, WIC
  • BAME Community Development Corporation
  • Bayside Community Center
  • Cajon Valley School District
  • California Summer Meals Coalition
  • City of Lemon Grove
  • City of Oceanside Neighborhood Services Dept.
  • City of San Diego Public Library
  • City of San Diego Park and Recreation
  • Community Health Improvement Partners
  • Community Housing Works
  • Copley Price YMCA
  • County of San Diego – Health and Human Services Agency
  • County of San Diego Library
  • Dairy Council of California
  • Escondido Education COMPACT
  • Escondido Union School District
  • Fallbrook Elementary School District
  • Feeding San Diego
  • Heaven’s Windows

The Summer and Youth Meals Task Forces are always open to new members. If you have questions or would like to attend a meeting, please contact Robin McNulty, Director of School Meals Program.

Latest School Meals Program Updates