Free meals available through summer meal programs for children

Published 8:00 pm Friday, February 5, 2021

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To increase participation in summer meal programs, the Minnesota Department of Education is seeking local sponsors or sites for this year’s Summer Food Service Program.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) ensures that children ages 1 to 18 continue to receive nutritious meals during the summer break from school when they do not have access to school breakfast or lunch. Children with disabilities and approved individualized education programs may participate through age 21.

Through the program, meals are provided at schools, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, parks, camps, community centers, swimming pools, libraries and low-income housing complexes at no cost. Sponsoring organizations receive reimbursement to cover the costs of providing nutritious meals and snacks to children in eligible areas. It is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by the Minnesota Department of Education.

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“Every child deserves access to nutritious meals every day,” said Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker. “Our schools and community partners are committed to meeting the needs of their students and children in their area. I am grateful for everyone who has supported this work, and would encourage anyone who is interested to get involved.”

With a record high number of meal sites open in the seven-county metro area, the Department of Education is focused on identifying unserved areas of economic need in Greater Minnesota. If a sponsor is already operating in that area, individual sites are encouraged to partner with the sponsor to provide meals. Rural communities and areas where migrant families reside are especially encouraged to apply.

A sponsoring organization must be:

  • A public or nonprofit private school
  • A public or nonprofit private residential summer camp
  • A unit of local, municipal, county or state government
  • A public or nonprofit college or university
  • Any other type of private nonprofit organization, which develops a special summer program providing food service for children 18 and under.

If an area is not currently served by a sponsoring organization, these organizations must complete an interest survey, which will be available on the MDE SFSP Application web page in March. The Department of Education provides sponsors with SFSP training, technical assistance and meal reimbursement funding for providing meals to children 18 and under in areas of economic need.

There are a number of waivers the program currently has available that provide flexibilities to sponsors. These waivers will expire in June and USDA — Food Nutrition Services is working as quickly as possible to make a determination on any flexibilities that may be available after June 30.

To learn more, visit the Summer Food Service Program website or contact MDE Nutrition, Health and Youth Development Division (, or call at 651-582-8526 or 1-800-366-8922.