April 7, 2017

TO:  Division Superintendents

FROM:  Steven R. Staples, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: Options for Providing Meals to Students in the Summer

The purposes of this memorandum are to present program options available to school divisions for providing meals to students in the summer months and to provide information schools may share with households about how to access summer meals.    

Good nutrition is essential for good health and effective learning every day, year-round.  When school is not in session, many students lose access to nutritious meals.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has identified Virginia as one of several states with pockets of persistent poverty where hunger is a prevalent issue.  USDA has asked partner agencies in Virginia, including the Department of Education (DOE), to focus their efforts and attention on expanding the availability of summer meal programs and increasing the number of meals served to children during the summer to help address childhood hunger.

Schools have equipment, trained staff, and facilities that position them to be successful in providing meals to students during the summer months. Three options are available to schools to help bridge the summer nutrition gap for their students.  Detailed comparisons of program requirements and reimbursement rates for the three options are provided in Attachment A to this memorandum. 

School divisions are encouraged to consider participating in one or more of the following summer programs:

  1. Academic Summer School Programs-National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP).  Schools that offer academic summer school may serve breakfast and/or lunch to enrolled students and receive federal reimbursement for meals served through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs as they do during the school year.  Students enrolled in academic summer school may participate in these programs.  School divisions wishing to participate in the summer NSLP and SBP must request approval through the DOE School Nutrition Programs Web-based software (SNPWeb).  Meals served to students in academic summer school are claimed by eligibility category under the NSLP and SBP and reimbursed at the regular free, reduced, and paid rates.

  2. USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).  The SFSP is a federally-funded USDA program administered by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Division of Community Nutrition.   School divisions may apply to participate in the SFSP by contacting VDH.  Schools may qualify to participate as an open site under SFSP and earn higher reimbursement rates for meals served if they plan to offer meals to children in the community.  Eligibility criteria required to qualify as an open site include the following:
    1. The school has, or is located within the attendance area of another school that has, at least 50 percent of the enrolled students eligible for free and reduced price meals;
    2. The school opens the programs to neighborhood children; and,
    3. The school serves all meals at no cost to participants.

Federal reimbursement rates under SFSP are higher than NSLP.  All SFSP meals are reimbursed at the same rate.  There is no academic requirement for participation in the SFSP.  The SFSP is ideal for summer recreational, enrichment, or activity programs in high poverty areas.  A school may be the sponsor of the SFSP by preparing and serving meals and claiming federal reimbursement, or schools may provide meals as a vendor to other sponsoring institutions such as the local parks and recreation department, the YMCA, the public library, or other community organizations.

Summer Meals Outreach

Whether or not the school division participates in these summer meal programs, schools are encouraged to provide information about the SFSP to all families to ensure they are aware of the availability of nutritious meals for their children throughout the local community during the summer.

If you have questions or want more information about the USDA Summer Food Service Program, please contact Courtney Jones, VDH Certification and Training Supervisor, by telephone at (804) 864-7820, or by email at courtney.jones@vdh.virginia.gov

For questions or information about academic summer school using the NSLP and/or SBP or the Seamless Summer Option, please contact Dr. Sandy Curwood, Director of School Nutrition Programs, at sandra.curwood@doe.virginia.gov or by telephone at (804) 225-2074, or the school nutrition program specialist assigned to your division. 



  1. Summer 2017 Comparison of Programs (PDF)
  2. USDA Memo SP 09-2017, 2017 Edition of Questions and Answers for the NSLP’s Seamless Summer Option (PDF)