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Closing the Summer Hunger Gap: Exploring Policies to Combat Childhood Food Insecurity

July 17, 2023

Childhood hunger is a serious problem that affects millions of children, especially over the summer when school meal services are unavailable. It is estimated 22 million children experience summer hunger every year. 

Almost 30 million students in the United States receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year. When summer arrives, the meals stop, which sadly leads to summer hunger among children. It is estimated that only about 5 million children continue to get free or reduced meals during the summer months. 

Summer hunger and food insecurity can cause both physical and mental health problems and lead to poor educational performance when school starts again. Not having enough food also puts children at risk for increased emotional and behavioral problems including higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. 

This blog will look at existing legislation and activities targeted at combating child summer hunger. Advocating for these policies helps ensure that no child goes hungry over summer break. 

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP):
The SFSP, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is a federal initiative that provides free meals to children in low-income areas during the summer. It aims to bridge the nutrition gap by offering nutritious meals and snacks at various community sites such as schools, parks, and community centers.
Children under the age of 18 are eligible for free meals and snacks at any SFSP location. These meals and snacks are also offered to disabled people over the age of 18. Visit this page to find summer meal locations near you. 
Seamless Summer Option (SSO):
The SSO is another USDA program that allows schools to continue providing meals to children during the summer break. It enables schools with high percentages of low-income students to offer breakfast and lunch, ensuring that children have access to nutritious meals even when school is out.
SSO program operators may operate at recreation centers, schools, libraries, and other summer meal locations. If you want to become an operator you must sign and mail Permanent Single Agreement for Child Nutrition Programs (SNP-National School Lunch Program (NSLP)-01) to the Nutrition Services Division. The agreement is available in the download forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS). To serve healthful and nutritious meals for children, the SSO adheres to particular meal patterns and nutritional requirements. For more information and answers to questions about SSO please visit SSO's frequently asked questions.
Community Eligibility Provision (CEP):
CEP is a provision under the National School Lunch Program that allows schools in high-poverty areas to offer free meals to all students, regardless of individual income. This provision helps ensure that children from low-income families have access to meals throughout the year, including the summer months. 

Breakfast and lunch are served at no cost to all students in schools on CEP. CEP reduces paperwork for schools and families by eliminating the hassle of gathering household applications. Visit this page for more details on CEP and your state.

State and Local Initiatives:
Many states and local communities have implemented their programs and initiatives to combat child summer hunger.
Some states have passed legislation to combat summer hunger among children. This can include funding for summer meal programs, broadening eligibility requirements, or implementing new strategies to reach more children in need.


Many local organizations, including churches, food banks, and non-profits, work together to provide summer meal programs for children. Offering meal locations, hosting community activities, and distributing food backpacks are examples of these collaborations. Some communities also provide and implement mobile feeding programs, in which food is transported to various areas to reach children who may lack transportation to meal sites. 

Summer Electronics Benefits Transfer (EBT) Program 
Congress recently passed the Summer Electronics Benefits Transfer Act, the most extensive anti-hunger initiative in over 50 years. The bill was passed in December 2022 and went into effect in the summer of 2023. This program gives groceries benefits to qualifying families with children when schools are out for the summer. The CDSS will mail summer EBT cards with benefit amounts between June and August 2023. Visit here to see whether you qualify and for more information about the summer EBT program.
This measure also allows summer food providers to adopt different program models, such as the grab-and-go meals model. Grab-and-go meals allow families to pick up take-home meals rather than eating at a set time and place.
Advocacy and Awareness:
Numerous advocacy groups and organizations, including the Move For Hunger advocacy committee, are working tirelessly to raise awareness about child summer hunger and advocate for policy changes. In addition, global organizations such as World Food Programme, Action Against Hunger, The Hunger Project, and World Central Kitchen actively work to ensure children have notorious meals during the summertime. They aim to ensure that children have access to nutritious meals during the summer break and beyond, addressing the root causes of food insecurity.


Simple actions can also help you become an engaged advocate. Spreading the word about our hunger facts website is a simple approach to raising awareness and campaigning for world hunger. Donating food while moving, volunteering, and organizing food drives are all excellent ways to get involved. We must also collectively campaign for policies that address the underlying causes of hunger. You can help by conducting research, educating people, sponsoring advocacy organizations, and assisting with implementation.

Our organization is an excellent example of advocacy and awareness, and we will not stop until everyone is informed. 

Don’t Wait, Act Now 
While summer hunger remains a significant challenge, current policies and initiatives are making strides in addressing this issue. 
However, continued advocacy, awareness, and collaboration are essential to further improve and expand these efforts. Together, we can create a future where no child goes hungry during the summer, ensuring their health, well-being, and future success.


Keeping our neighborhood food banks and pantries stocked is crucial because more families rely on them during the summer. Read our blog to find out more about the best foods to donate during the summer.

If you want to join the fight for ending summer hunger, donate today to help those in need. 

Tagged with: Advocacy Summer Hunger