Summer Food Service Program

How Libraries Can Help

Hungry kids don’t read. According to a survey of teachers by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, childhood hunger remains a serious obstacle to learning. Hungry kids can’t concentrate, they do poorly in school, and they don’t participate successfully in summer reading programs and other library activities.

Every summer when school ends, millions of kids 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 provides free healthy meals to children and youth in communities with high rates of poverty. Many Ohio libraries already participate as lunch sites, or provide programming to other lunch sites in their communities.

However, the SFSP is among the most underutilized government programs.  As few as 1 in 10 eligible Ohio students receive food through the SFSP. There are an alarming number of kids who do not have access to food during the summer. When school is out, these kids also lack the other support school offers, including engagement, learning, supervision, 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. Learn more below.

Become an SFSP Site

Open program sites are locations serving low-income areas where at least half of the children come from 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 the open site. 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 Reading 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 “Operational Layers,” click on “FY17_FNS_CACFP_SFSP_Eligibility” to see if all or part of the area you serve is eligible. You may also click on “Summer_Meal_Sites_2017” to see if program sites existed in your community last summer, and on “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. Find SFSP sponsors using the Ohio Department of Education’s SFSP map.
  • For further information, or if there is no sponsor in your area, contact one of the SFSP specialists listed under ‘Contact Information’ on the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Child Nutrition website.
  • If you’d like to explore library-specific possibilities for SFSP, contact State Library Assistant Gregg Gassman at

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. Sponsors are reimbursed for all expenses by the USDA.

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 this tool from the Ohio Department of Education to search for existing sites and sponsors. Contact a local site or sponsor to offer to partner.
  • If no sites exist in your community, consider becoming a site yourself! See above for details.

Publicize Your Local SFSP Site


Refer Patrons

Refer young patrons to local SFSP sites. Tools for finding sites include:

  • A clickable statewide map of Ohio sponsors and sites
  • A hotline: 1-866-3-HUNGRY
  • A text-based location service: text FOOD to 877-877
  • The WhyHunger website
  • The Range mobile app

Additional Resources

Participating Libraries (Ohio)

Dozens of Ohio public libraries already serve as program sites. Learn more about some of them:

Participating Libraries (Nationwide)

Feeding Ohio’s Children

This publication of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks describes additional programs, such as Mobile Farmers Markets and the Summer Weekend Meals Program, that provide healthy food for children in Ohio.

Summer Nutrition Toolkit

The Food Research and Action Center, a national nonprofit organization working to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States, has developed a toolkit to help with outreach about SFSP.

Map of Ohio Library Participation and County Eligibility

Click on the map above to download a full-size version. This map provides an overview of county-by-county eligibility and current participation by public libraries. Libraries in counties with red, orange, or yellow background are likely eligible as sites. Libraries in counties with white or green background may be eligible as sites. Eligible sites draw attendance from a school or community in which at least 50% of children are eligible for free or reduced price school meals. See the USDA capacity builder map to determine if your library serves an eligible community.

The Ohio map was created by Ryan Bowling as part of his winter 2015 Kent State University School of Library and Information Science Culminating Experience (practicum) program.

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, or Gregg Gassman, Library Assistant, at  Thank you for your library’s involvement in supporting the well-being of the children of your community, and ending child hunger in Ohio.

The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.