How Libraries Can Help
Every summer when school ends, millions of children and teens are at risk of going hungry without access to the free or reduced-price meals they receive in school. The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free healthy meals to children and teens in communities with high rates of poverty. Many Ohio libraries already participate as SFSP sites, or provide programming to other SFSP sites in their communities.
However, the SFSP is among the most underutilized government programs. An alarming number of kids who rely on free or reduced-price school meals may have inadequate access to food during the summer. When school is out, these kids also lack the other supports school offers, including engagement, learning, adult presence, and a safe and temperature-controlled environment – things libraries can provide.
Your library can be part of the solution to childhood hunger in Ohio. Become an SFSP site, become an SFSP sponsor, partner with existing sites, publicize the program, and/or connect your young patrons to the program.
Become an SFSP Site
Open SFSP sites are locations serving areas where at least half of the children have families with incomes at or below 185% of the federal poverty level, making them eligible for free and reduced-price school meals. Meals are served free to any child up to 18 years old at open SFSP sites. A site may serve 1 or 2 meals, a meal and a snack, or just a snack daily. Library meeting rooms and outdoor areas on library grounds are great program sites. Libraries can incorporate their Summer Library Program and other fun, literacy-based activities. Sites incur no monetary cost unless they choose to invest in materials for enrichment programming, books to give away to attending children, etc.
- Find out if your area is eligible for SFSP by using the USDA Capacity Builder map.
- After the map loads, search for or zoom to your community.
- Under “Layers,” click on “FY2022 CACFP SFSP Eligibility” to see if all or part of the area you serve is eligible. Pink means eligible. Click on “Summer Meal Sites 2021” to see existing SFSP sites in your community. Click on “Public Libraries” to pinpoint your location and that of neighboring libraries.
- If you serve an eligible area, identify and contact a local sponsor about becoming a site. If you do not know what organization sponsors SFSP in your area, contact an existing SFSP site in your area to ask what organization sponsors their participation.
- For further information, or if there is no sponsor in your area, contact an SFSP specialist listed under ‘Contact Information’ on the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Integrated Student Supports website. You might also contact your school district administrative offices to discuss the possibility of their becoming an SFSP sponsor and using your library as a site, or contact the food bank that serves your area.
- If part of your service district is eligible, but the library is not physically located in the eligible part, consider partnering with a park, apartment complex, faith community, or other institution situated within the eligible part. In most cases, a location must be within an eligible area in order to qualify to serve as an SFSP site.
- You may also contact Children’s Hunger Alliance (CHA), a statewide organization which is able to sponsor eligible SFSP sites in all 88 counties. CHA offers a kid-friendly shelf-stable meal model that is easy to implement and manage. Contact CHA using this form. CHA can also sponsor eligible sites to provide afterschool meals across the State of Ohio through the USDA’s Child and Adult Food Care Program. Contact CHA using this form to learn more about afterschool meals.
- If you’d like to explore library-specific possibilities for SFSP, contact Library Consultant Janet Ingraham Dwyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Become an SFSP Sponsor
Sponsors handle the financial, administrative and food service responsibilities to run the SFSP in an area. Sponsors may contract with food service providers and do not have to prepare the food themselves. The USDA reimburses the sponsors’ expenses for running the program.
- Search for existing sponsors in your area using the Ohio Department of Education’s SFSP map. The listing for each SFSP site includes a record of its sponsor. (note: map is available during summer months only)
- If there is no sponsor in your area, consider becoming a sponsor. Complete the Potential Sponsor Survey to get started. The Ohio Department of Education Office for Integrated Student Supports will contact you with further information.
- The USDA offers a succinct overview of how to become a sponsor.
- For more information on becoming a sponsor, contact one of the SFSP specialists listed under ‘Contact Information’ on the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Integrated Student Supports website.
Partner with Sites
Library partners provide outreach programming, bookmobile or lobby stop-style service, book giveaways, or other support to existing sites in your community.
Use the SFSP Site Map from the Ohio Department of Education to search for existing SFSP sites and sponsors (note: this map is available during summer months only). You can also identify SFSP sites using the USDA Capacity Builder map. Contact a local site or sponsor to offer to partner.
- Explore the Collaborative Summer Library Program’s Libraries and Summer Food how-to guide for outreach ideas.
- If no sites exist in your community, consider becoming a site yourself! See above for details.
Publicize Your Local SFSP Site
- See the USDA Summer Food Service Program site for a wealth of resources to help communities publicize the availability of summer food programs.
- Download outreach materials from Share Our Strength (flyers, posters, yard signs, etc.). Many are customizable.
- Download an Ending Child Hunger library flyer (note: unlike the other items in this list, this flyer is targeted to library staff, not the general public).
Refer young patrons to local SFSP sites. Tools for finding sites include:
- A clickable statewide map of Ohio sponsors and sites (note: map is available during summer months only)
- The USDA National Hunger Hotline: 1-866-3-HUNGRY
- A text-based location service: text FOOD (or COMIDA) to 304-304
- The WhyHunger website
- The Range mobile app
- Libraries and Summer Food – a succinct, thorough how-to guide from the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) to help libraries connect kids and teens with healthy food when school is out.
- CSLP’s Summer Meals factsheet (PDF) and infographic (JPG image file) and talking points flyer (PDF)
- Summer and Afterschool Meals in Libraries – a national resource for libraries from No Kid Hungry.
- USDA Summer Food Service Program website
- USDA Summer Meals Toolkit
- Ohio Department of Education: Summer Food Service Program
The ODE is the program administrator of the SFSP in Ohio.
- Team Vittles – group of librarians dedicated to promoting the Summer Food Service Program and other food security programs across Ohio. Began as a team project through ILEAD USA Ohio in 2017.
- “Free Lunch at the Library” by Catherine Saint Louis, a New York Times feature article (7/30/17) featuring Marysville Public Library and the Elmwood Place Branch, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
- Lunch at the Library – this California-based site features a toolkit for libraries, and access to a listserv to ask questions of other librarians and share ideas about summer meal programs.
- Feeding Your Community: Summer Meals in Libraries – recording of a fall 2021 webinar (runtime 1:08) that covers the basics of SFSP and ideas for how to participate. Penny Weaver from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service provides an overview of SFSP, and four public librarians share how they have built partnerships and creatively implemented SFSP.
- Beyond Food for Fines: Libraries, Food Banks and Feeding America – recording of a fall 2017 webinar plus and a helpful collection of resources and links compiled by WebJunction. Registration is required to view the recording. Registration is free, and gives you access to WebJunction courses and webinar archives. You need not register to view the webinar slides, transcript, or related resources and links.
- Providing Meals for Adults – a compilation of ideas from Lunch at the Library, for libraries wishing to to provide food for adult parents and caregivers, who are not eligible to receive meals through SFSP.
- Summer Nutrition Programs – The Food Research and Action Center, a national nonprofit organization working to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States, offers an array of how-to resources, data, and news about SFSP.
Feeding Ohio’s Children
- Beyond summer: learn about afterschool meals through the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program by reading this article from the Collaborative Summer Library Program newsletter and watching this webinar from No Child Hungry about afterschool meals at libraries. Children’s Hunger Alliance is a CACFP sponsor that works with libraries in Ohio.
- The Ohio Association of Foodbanks operates several additional programs, such as Mobile Farmers Markets and the Summer Weekend Meals Program, that provide healthy food for children in Ohio. Learn more about these food programs.
For more information or assistance with any aspect of library participation in SFSP, please contact Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Library Consultant, at 614-644-6910 or email@example.com. Thank you for your library’s involvement in supporting the well-being of the children of your community, and helping to end child hunger and food insecurity in Ohio.
The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.