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Summer Food Service Program

How Libraries Can HelpUSDA SFSP logo

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 (SFSP) 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.  Only about 1 in 10 eligible children in Ohio receive food through the SFSP.  This is an alarming number of kids who are food insecure during the summer.  When school is out, these kids also lack the other supports school offers: 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.  Here's how:


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.  Food is delivered to the site by the sponsoring organization or its contracted food service provider.  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. 

  • Use this map for an overview of general eligibility by county and of current public library participation.
  • 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 “FY2015 Eligibility” to see if all or part of the area you serve is eligible.  You may also click on “2014 Open Summer Sites” 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.
  • For further information, or if there is no sponsor in your area, contact Ohio Department of Education Office for Child Nutrition at 614-466-2945 or email Mary Forster, SFSP Coordinator/Consultant.


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 food-related 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.


Publicize local SFSP sites through signage and other library communications


Refer young patrons to local SFSP sites 

Tools for finding sites include:



Additional Resources

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.

Ohio SFSP Program Overview (PDF)

How libraries in Ohio are participating
Dozens of Ohio public libraries already serve as program sites.  See them on a map provided by Lunch at the Library.  Learn more about some of them:
Athens County Public Library
Garnet A. Wilson Library of Pike County
Marion Public Library
Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

How libraries in other states are participating
Lunch at the Library (California) - this site features a toolkit for libraries, and access to a listserv to ask questions of other librarians and share ideas about summer meal programs.
Let’s Do Lunch (Indiana)
Serving the Underserved: Lunch at the Library (Glen Ellyn, IL)
Fueling the Mind (Kenton County, KY)
To Be Well Read…You Must Be Well Fed (New York)
Read Virginia: Summer Food Program at Your Library

Feeding Ohio’s Children (PDF)
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 to download a full-size version (PDF).  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.

This 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   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.



2015 Ohio SFSP Overview246.5 KB
Ohio Library Participation and County Eligibility Map1.07 MB
"Ending Child Hunger" flyer for Ohio libraries424.88 KB