School Meals Program Menu


Summer Lunch

Schools out for summer. Hunger is not. What happens to the more than 197,000 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 Lunch Program.

What is the Summer Lunch Program?

The Summer Lunch Program, officially called the Federal Summer Food Service Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to ensure children, ages 2 – 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. Through the program, children can receive two full meals per day or one meal and a snack.

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 and ask them if there is a location in your community.

The Need

Unfortunately, approximately 58% of students cannot take advantage of this program, for a variety of reasons, like a lack of nearby sites (which is particularly an issue in rural areas). This puts these children at risk of hunger, which can lead to illness and other health issues. When school resumes in the fall, they are more at risk of falling into a cycle of poor performance due to lack of (nutritious) food.

Why the Summer Lunch Program is important

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.


The program is open to all children ages 2-18. There are no income qualifications, no enrollment, and no paperwork required to participate.

Open Summer Lunch sites provide free meals to any child who comes to the site. These sites operate in low-income areas where 50% of households are at or below 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

Enrolled sites, regardless of location, provide free meals to all children enrolled in a program if at least half are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.


A site is a location where the Summer Lunch meals are served. Sites can be a school, church, park and recreation location or a local community organization.

Click here for a listing of summer lunch sites. SDHC recommends checking with your local site to confirm the program is still being offered at that location.

If your church or community organization is interested in becoming a site for the Summer Lunch Program in San Diego County, contact Patty Atherton at the California Department of Education:916-327-5456, or by email at

As a supervisor at a site, you will be responsible for:

  •  Attending your sponsor’s training
  • Supervising activities and meals service on site
  • Managing volunteers
  • Distributing meals in accordance with SFSP guidelines
  • Keeping daily records of meals served
  • Maintaining a clean and sanitary site


A sponsor is the organization that cooks or procures the Summer Lunch meals and then sends them to the site. A sponsor can also be a site (e.g., a school district that cooks the meals and serves them at their own school buildings.)

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for the Summer Lunch program in San Diego County, contact Patty Atherton at the California Department of Education: 916-327-5456, or by email at

As a sponsor, you will be responsible for:

  • Attending State agency’s training
  • Locating and recruiting eligible sites
  • Hiring, training, and supervising staff and volunteers
  • Arranging meals to be prepared or delivered
  • Monitoring sites
  • Preparing claims for reimbursement